Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Disney Dining Adventures

So today was THE DAY.

Today was the 180 day mark for making Advance Dining Reservations for our Thanksgiving week vacation at Walt Disney World Resort.

For those of you who are wondering what the heck I'm talking about...if you want to eat at a "table service" (sit down) restaurant during your Disney vacation you better call at 180 days out to make a reservation or you'll go hungry.

Or something like that.

So being the good Disney planner that I am...I was up at 5 a.m. 5:45 a.m. ready to attempt to use the online booking system to make ADRs for our party of 10.

Notice that I said "attempt" -- this is because the online reservation system is a hot failure. I spent an hour online trying to book ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING and I got nowhere. Every time I found something and tried to choose that time frame the website did nothing.

And so...I had to call the phone reservation system at 7 a.m. - and sit on hold for 20 minutes.

Thankfully the agent I finally spoke with was Disney-smart and very helpful and we managed to find good dining options and times for the Chaos Party of 10 vacation.

We didn't get everything we wanted. 'Ohana was booked until our last day when I managed to get an early dinner. Thanksgiving dinner will be at Chef Mickey's (instead of Whispering Canyon Cafe) because that's all I could get. There was NO HOPE of getting into Be Our Guest so I said "screw it."

All in all it was a less-than-magical morning but at least it's done and we have reservations.

Now to wait until September to make our FastPass+ reservations - I'm sure that'll be just as insane.

Monday, April 13, 2015

And the OBX Trip Planning Continues

This June will be our second (consecutive) family trip to the OBX.

Last year we rented a beach house from Carolina Designs Realty and we loved it so much that we re-booked it before we even left the beach!

 So you could say that the 2014 trip was a "training exercise" for Chaos Party of 10. We did some things right and we didn't some not-so-right things.

One of the things we did sort of right was visiting our local Sam's Club and buying some things in "bulk" for the house.

These items include: liquid hand soap (our beach house has about 8 bathrooms so this is a necessity), Kleenex (again, see the number of bathrooms), and some snacks for both at the beach house and in the car. We made the mistake of buying toilet paper at Sam's last year and it barely fit in the car. So this year...we'll be waiting to buy that.

Since we're driving over the course of two days to get to the OBX we'll need some "car snacks" and we have to covered (sort of).

One thing we did "wrong" last year was eat out almost every single night. Not sure what the hell we were thinking (other than the OBX is full of amazing places to eat!) but this year we'll be eating out only twice and cooking the other nights at the beach house.

I mean the house has an amazing kitchen so we might as well use it.

So this time around we're creating menus for lunch and dinner. So far the list is "surf and turf night" with steaks and a Steamer Pot (from Mulligans!), pasta night, taco night, and grill night. We also have plans to eat at Awful Arthur's because it's just damn amazing.

We also bought so much booze last year that we had to get a permit to drive it back to the beach house. No joke.

This year in an effort to avoid the need for transportation permits we're also creating a daily drink menu with the necessary ingredients.

Which brings me to my "vacation planning notebook." Yep, that's right. I bought a notebook where we're keeping all the lists, menus, shopping lists, reservations, and more. For the OBX and for the Disney trip in November. (And for the cruise next June but we won't talk about that right now. Wink, wink).

It's almost time to start creating the "OBX Pile" on the dining room table. That's where all the things I need to pack will be collected until I actually start packing. There is a method to my madness. Really.

And now, I have to go make some more lists. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

And...I'm back

OK honestly.

This poor blog.

I need to start paying more attention to this little ol' blog that is so very neglected.

And as luck would have it, I have three HUGE trips planned in the next 12 months! I know, crazy...right?

First up, the Party of 10 is headed back to the Outer Banks for the second year in a row. We've rented a gorgeous beach house in Nags Head and it's gonna be amazing.

Then, the Party of 10 is heading to Walt Disney World for Thanksgiving! Yep...I'm finally going to see Cinderella Castle all decked out in the twinkling holiday lights.

And finally, next June the Party of 10 is boarding Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas for a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise.


What does this mean for the blog? Well...I'm going to TRY and document all these travel adventures here.

Oh and in case you're wondering who the Party of 10 is...it's my family! My, Kevin, the kids, my sister and her husband and kids, and my parents.

We call ourselves "Chaos Party of 10." Trust me when I say the name fits. I've decided that when I make dining reservations for us I'm going to use "Chaos" as our last name so when our table is ready we'll hear "Chaos, party of 10."

OK. Let's get going!

Here's to happy traveling!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

And...Three Years Later I Suppose it's Time to Update this Blog

I think the real question here is "what in the world have I been doing that was so important which would lead to me neglecting this blog?"

Wow. That was a long sentence. I apologize for that.

One would think that our Walt Disney World trip three four years ago was so horrible that I couldn't bear to write about it. That is not the case.

Let's just chalk up the serious neglect of this blog to the fact that 2011 wasn't a great year (professionally at least) and when I did blog it was over on The Fishbowl.

We did take the kids to WDW again in 2011 - with the whole family - and it was a lovely trip. But I'm not going to blog about that here. Since then we've traveled to the Outer Banks (amazing), New York City (also amazing) and a few local trips here and there.

I might get some posts up on those adventures in the next few weeks.

But this summer is going to be a a fun travel-filled summer as we're headed back to the Outer Banks (with the entire family!) and we're going to Disney again. I will be blogging about both of those trips in addition to any side trips (Put-in-Bay, perhaps) that we might take.

Now the real question is whether or not anyone is actually reading this blog anymore.....

Guess I'll find out.

Happy travels!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another resort and our first day at the parks!

OK....it's been more than a year since our 2010 trip to WDW and I'm just now getting around to writing the rest of my posts...

So, after our mini 'adventure' at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista (not sure I'll ever stay there again), we packed up the car (again!) and headed to Disney's Pop Century Resort. This resort is one of Disney's 'value' resorts and I was excited to stay here. I was hoping we'd get a room in the 1950s, but ended up in the 1990s buildings. (A little history - the resort is split into decades 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s .... each themed for that decade).

We lucked out when we arrived at Pop - it was only about 7:30 a.m. and our room was ready! (I was so happy about this). So, we drove over to the building and Kevin unpacked the car while the girls and I jumped up and down in anticipation of the rest of day. Soon enough we were headed to the bus stop to catch a bus to the Magic Kingdom!

We made it to the park before 'rope drop' and had a chance to see the welcome show! That was the perfect way to start our day.

More about our adventures in the next post....

Friday, December 31, 2010

Oh good grief

I haven't finished my posts about the April 2010 trip.

I know this.

I will remedy this very soon.

Perhaps even before the end of 2010.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Downtown Disney and some Florida storms. Oh, and a flood.

Sunday, April 25th

We were all up bright and early today....excited to get packed (again) and head to Downtown Disney for the day and then to (yet another) hotel for the night.

Originally, this was going to be our "arrival day" but since we had arrived a day early, we now had a full day to spend exploring Downtown Disney and relaxing at our next hotel (Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort). I didn't know much about this resort, other than it was recommended by one of my trusted Disney planning sites - and we were able to get a great price for one night. And, it was located INSIDE the Walt Disney World Resort area.

Back to the day's adventures...

After a free breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express (one of many reasons I always LOVE the HIE), we packed the car and decided to stop at the Best Western (even though it was only 10:30 a.m., we thought maybe they would let us get in our room..we were wrong). So, rather than getting into our room at the BW, we made the very short drive to Downtown Disney.

The girls were SO excited to see DTD!

First stop - the World of Disney Store. You must see this place. It is the biggest Disney character store on the planet! The girls loved the "spitting Stich" and we took pictures with the princess statues:

After the girls rode the train and the merry-go-round and we visited many of the shops (but somehow managed to NOT buy anything), it was time to eat lunch. We had decided to eat at The Rainforest Cafe - a new experience for all of us!

Little did we know (until we were walking in and being seated) how LOUD it could be. See, every 30 minutes or so it STORMS in the rain forest. As in thunder! lightning! and all the "animals" get a little crazy too. Olivia thought it was very cool...Emma did not. (See, Emma has very sensitive ears - she has tubes in her ears - and loud noises are very upsetting to her). So, for the 45 minutes or so that it took for us to eat lunch, Emma cried and covered her ears. It was not our best parenting moment.

Even during the 'quiet' non-storming time, she covered her ears. We only had one storm during lunch, but another storm 'hit' as we were walking out. Ooops.

Overall, I really liked The Rainforest Cafe - Kevin and I shared a huge appetizer sampler (best chicken fingers!). And the atmosphere was so unique....I would definitely go back.

After some more shopping (and sweating...it was HOT!!), we decided it was time for ice cream...so we made our way to the Ghirardelli ice cream shop. Seriously, you MUST stop here every time you visit DTD. The ice cream is so yummy....I really wanted to get a sundae, but decided to 'be good' and I only ordered mint chocolate chip in a homemade waffle cone. Still delicious!

At around 2:15 we decided to call it a day and head back to the BW and check in. (We knew the 'official' check in was 3 p.m., but you can ALWAYS get in early. Or so we thought.) Kevin goes in and they tell him we can't check in until 3 p.m. but we're welcome to sit in the lobby. For 45 minutes. With two very tired little girls who just want to nap and swim (not necessarily in that order).

I am not happy about this.

As we are in the ladies room, Olivia says "mommy why can't we get in our room?" and I say to her "well, because the people who run this hotel are stupid and don't know how to run a hotel and you can bet we'll never stay here again." (Yeah, not my best parenting moment, but it happens).

And then...out of the other stall walks A HOTEL EMPLOYEE! She looks at me rather sheepishly and quickly walks out.

We head back to the lobby and the girls and I sit down and prepare to wait. And then suddenly....the same woman who told Kevin (and three other families) that we had to wait until 3 p.m. suddenly waves Kevin up to the desk and SHOCKINGLY our room is suddenly ready.

[I'm not sure if my 'complaining' caused this or not....but I guess sometimes being, um, 'vocal' has its advantages].

So...we get to our room and it's nice, but I have to say...the rooms at the Holiday Inn Express are much nicer. After swimming, naps and dinner (Pizza Hut ... in the lobby... very convenient!], we settle in for the night. We're under a tornado watch and there is a huge complex of severe storms coming, so we decide we'll just go to bed early and be refreshed for Monday - and our first day at the Magic Kingdom.

The storms roll in and roll out, the kids fall asleep and then suddenly I'm awake at 1 a.m. because I hear an alarm in the hallway. Or maybe it was in the stairwell. Either way, I think at first "Oh my gosh! It's a tornado siren!" and then I think "Oh my god! The hotel is on fire!" And then I hear what sounds like rushing water. At this point, I'm totally confused and wake up Kevin.

What follows is a true story. I couldn't make this up if I wanted to.

Kevin looks outside in the hallway - he says people are screaming and fighting and bleeding and I think "Great! We're surrounded by people who are fighting at 1 a.m. Where the heck are we?!?" I tell him to close the door.

And call the front desk.

He calls the front desk and they inform him that someone* on our floor has broken the sprinkler in their room and the alarm we hear IS the fire alarm because the fire department is on their way to turn off the sprinkler.

I look in the hallway and see people who are soaking wet and covered in some weird bluish-black "inky" stuff. And then, I see this:

In case you're wondering, yes that IS water ... flowing down the hallway. At 1:30 a.m. All we needed was some dramatic music and Kate Winslet yellling "Jack!" and it could have been a scene straight out of Titanic. Without the ship and the icebergs, of course.

The water continued to GUSH for a very long time. Firefighters came up the elevator. And they went down the elevator. Several families moved out of their rooms. And the water just kept coming. Olivia was awake for the entire 'flood' and she was very scared. I think she thought the water was going to reach our room (as did I)...Emma on the other hand, slept through the entire event.

Finally at 3 a.m. Kevin called the front desk and they moved us up ... to a much higher floor. Far away from the water. They were going to give us a 'free breakfast' for "our troubles" but Kevin said "no, you will do better than that" and so, we ended up getting our room at no charge. (I mean really...a free breakfast does not 'erase' a flood in the middle of the night!)

After finally getting back to sleep at 3:30 a.m. - we were up (again) at 5:30 a.m. ready to head to Pop Century and start our week-long adventure at Walt Disney World! (Oddly, I wasn't as tired as I thought I'd be.)

The moral of this story: sometimes, it rains inside when you're in Florida.

*The genius who broke the sprinkler head in his room? Um yeah...he was HANGING A SHIRT ON IT!!!! Are. You. Kidding. Me? That's what closets are for!