Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Friday, February 04, 2005

Walt Disney World - Day 0 - The Prologue

Walt Disney World '05


Patricia and David Bowers

February 5-12, 2005

Meet the Cast

This trip consists of Patricia Bowers, who is mother to myself (I am 32).

Pre-Trip Planning

We had planned to take this trip for a couple years now, and in 2004 we decided that 2005 was the right time. It had always been a dream of my mom's to stay on property at Disneyworld for a vacation. After consulting two very reliable internet websites that discuss WDW, a lot of good information was learned from Deb's Allears site, and the discussion forums at the DIS boards proved to be invaluable. From those sites we could learn about new attractions that had been added since our last visit to the parks (for Mom that was 1991, for myself it was 1995), compare restaurant menus and resorts. We also read the official Birnbaum guide as well as the Unofficial guide.

When it came time to choose a resort, we decided that we wanted make the trip special and to not stay at one of Disney's Value resorts, but at the same time we wanted to keep trip costs reasonable. This led us to research options on the Moderate Tier. After comparing resort reviews on the internet, we decided on Port Orleans Riverside, which is a big fan favorite over on DIS boards. Following advice found in a trip planning article published in Disney magazine, I went online about 6 months in advance, and booked the trip.

Before booking the trip I looked up both the fares I could get from on flights that occurred when we wanted to fly, as well as the pricing of the Mear's shuttle. Feeling armed to make the decisions, I entered our trip details into the website, and felt surprised that after toying around with different options I was able to get them to include non-stop direct airline flights at perfect times for less than the airlines own website. Sure I'd loose a couple bucks on the Mear's tickets but to have everything consolidated into one package was worth it.

Reservation in hand, I next contacted Disney Dining and was able to purchase tickets for the Spirit of Aloha dinner show. Everything was going nice and smooth. A few days later I had a written confirmation letter, an invoice, and a couple days later a welcome package. The welcome package included advance copies of all the park guides, a brochure describing the package I had purchased, along with a welcome letter. A closer observation of the welcome letter revealed that the background art was all Port Orleans Riverside photos.

Disney announces winter specials

We were watching TV one night when a commercial came on about new low rates for Disney hotels in the first quarter of 2005. I didn't think much of it at first, then I looked up the details on the internet and realized that the special winter promotion would mean about a $500 savings for us. Getting ready for some doubletalk and runaround, I called up Disney. My first experience this trip of the great Disney customer service came in this phone call. When I gave my reservation number, and the "secret code" for the Winter Dream Maker Package, the reservationist (Thanks Fontaine!) recalculated my trip pricing with all the same options I had selected, and quoted me a new price which was substantially lower than the price I currently had. When I asked what I needed to do to get the new lower rate, she told me it was already done. I requested a revised confirmation letter, and lo and behold, a couple business days later I had an itemized invoice which reflected what I had agreed to, and more importantly showed the new much lower price.

It's Priority Seating Time

There was a time when Disney food was not anything to look forward to, happily that situation has much changed, and now Disney's table service restaurants have gotten so popular that they have begun a special Disney version of reservations called "Priority Seating" priority Seating differs from traditional restaurant reservations in that it has no exposure due to no-shows. Instead of blocking out tables, they instead schedule you for a time. You show up to the restaurant at least 15 minutes before your priority Seating time, and when you check in at the podium they put your name on a different list than those without reservations, and when a table comes available, they will first check the priority seating list before they take walk-ups. In this manner if you no-show a reservation, the restaurant can move ahead to the next party.

Disney was nice enough to send me an email 91 days before my check in day telling me that I could make priority seatings 90 days in advance. Knowing that I was not trying to book any of the hot-ticket restaurants, I waited until 90 days before the LAST priority seating I wanted to make. I was happy to get all the priority seatings I wanted, at the times I wanted. This also caused me to firm up Version 1 of the trip plan.

Trip Planning Version 1

Version 1 of the trip plan was based around the original thought that Spectromagic would only be offered on Saturday, , and to plan periodic sleep in days for my Mom.

Quickly stated V1 of the trip looked like this:

Saturday 2/5 - Travel Day, Magic Kingdom upon arrival, Liberty Tree Tavern dinner
Sunday 2/6 - MGM Studios - Fantasmic Dinner Package at Hollywood and Vine
Monday 2/7 - Animal Kingdom with EMH morning, Rainforest Cafe lunch
Tuesday 2/8 - Mom sleep in day, Keys to Kingdom Tour for me, meet in afternoon at EPCOT for dinner at Biergarten
Wednesday 2/9 - Epcot all day, EMH morning at EPCOT, Dinner at Alfredos
Thursday 2/10 - Magic Kingdom till close, EMH at Magic Kingdom - Morning, Dinner at Spirit of Aloha
Friday 2/11 - Mom sleep in day, Blizzard Beach for me in morning, Downtown Disney at night
Saturday 2/12 - Travel day home, attraction catch up if need be.

Since you read this is Trip Version 1, this is NOT how it actually worked out. Read on for more details.

Magic Your Way introduced

So everything is set, and on December 2, Disney makes the most drastic change to their admission policy in recent years. It would be time to reevaluate tickets and packages again.

A ticket revaluation determines that I could save $80 per ticket by downgrading from the Ultimate Park Hopper ticket to Magic Your Way Premium tickets. The deal started to sound even better to change when the Dining Package was offered. The old Silver plan just seemed to cost way more than the benefit we would get from it, but the Dining Plan seemed downright reasonable. The hitch was I was using a special package rate. In order to save the $80 per ticket, and then be allowed to purchase the dining plan (a $500 upgrade), I would have to give up the $500 savings I had on the room. I was a little bit bummed but still thought the old package was still our best bet. My suspicions became more confirmed when the exclusions to the Dining Plan were announced and I learned that 3 of the meal options I had selected were excluded from the dining plan. Don't get me wrong, I mean if you want to eat where Disney tells you, and eat what Disney tells you, the dining plan can save you money if used correctly. In our situation, with the restaurant exclusions, and the restaurants we chose that would be included we hardly saw ourselves breaking even on the meal plan. After much decision, we decided to keep the old package that we had.

Final Preparations

About a month before our trip, we got the travel package in the mail. This is the package that includes the baggage tags, the airline tickets, the Mear's Shuttle vouchers (not tickets, there is a difference), the hotel voucher, and the final statement and itemized print out of what you had purchased.

We then made arrangements to see my Uncle and Aunt (Tim and Gail) for one day, after they checked their calendar, they were able to come on Wednesday, and they wanted to see the Magic Kingdom. This would clearly mean some revisioning to the schedule.

Trip Plan V2

Okay, I was able to call and rearrange my Priority Seatings, and hen cancel and rebook (in that order) my Keys to the Kingdom tour with no difficulties.

The new plan looked like this:

Saturday 2/5 - Travel Day/ Epcot/ Dinner at Alfredos
Sunday 2/6 - MGM Studios/ Fantasmic Dinner Package/ Hollywood and Vine
Monday 2/7 - Mom sleep in day/ Keys to the Kingdom tour for myself/ Magic Kingdom/ Liberty Tree Tavern dinner
Tuesday 2/8 - Epcot all day/ Biergarten Dinner/ EMH - Evening
Wednesday 2/9 - Magic Kingdom all day with Tin and Gail, meal plans left open
Thursday 2/10 - Mom sleep in day - Blizzard Beach for me, Spirit of Aloha in evening
Friday 2/11 - Animal Kingdom - Rainforest Cafe lunch
Saturday 2/12 - travel day, touring as needed

I won't give it all up now, but this is the plan we went to Disney with, but in the end Trip Plan V3 needed to be created, although it was a minor change so maybe Trip Plan Version 2.1 needed to be created.

The week before the trip we packed our bags as full as we could possibly get them, as we learned that we had better be prepared for just about anything weather-wise. I also checked the extended outlook on, which assured me lows in the 50's and highs in the mid 70's all week. It all sounded great. We had also made arrangements for my cousin to drive us to the airport so that we could avoid the long term parking charges.

Finally the night before was upon us, so with alarm clocks set at 4:30AM, its time to prepare for one last nights sleep at home.

And thus time to end this article, stay tuned for Day 1


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