Hi all. The cast of characters for this trip were Jeff (39), a NASA engineer, wife Susan (37), also an engineer with NASA, son Brian, (11) and daughter Katie (9). This was the fourth year in a row we've visited WDW during the kids' spring break vacation. This year was one of those in-between years in terms of where their spring break fell in relation to Easter. When it falls two weeks ahead of Easter it's great! This year it was the week before Easter so crowd levels were up from what we've seen in the past but they still were manageable with a little homework and upfront planning.Go To Part 2
In terms of planning, we did what we normally do. We are frequent visitors so we're familiar with all of the parks, resorts, roads and Disney transportation options.
***TIP*** For first time WDW visitors or infrequent visitors, I strongly suggest that you purchase or check out from your local library Bob Sehlinger's "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World" and Birnbaum's "Walt Disney World". I think these two guides compliment one another nicely. Read them and familiarize yourself with the different parks and their respective attractions.
I always do a day-by-day itinerary which lists the park or parks that we plan on attending on a particular day. I make that itinerary by first choosing the park that was the Early Entry (EE) park the day before and then typically list a second park for the afternoon/evening that also is not an EE park. The Animal Kingdom (AK) doesn't have EE so I fit it in by going in the evenings or going first thing in the morning later in the week. After roughing out what days we'll do what parks we decide where we want to eat and make priority seating reservations accordingly. Those get put on the itinerary as well as when we will do special activities like Fantasmic! at the Studios or Spectromagic at the MK. We don't always follow our itinerary and I'll show that in this report by listing what we planned to do versus what we actually did. Some people believe developing a touring plan imposes too much rigidity on them, which is fine - to each their own. We've found that making a plan upfront makes our vacations less stressful, as we don't have to think too much about what we want to do on the spot.
The weather for the entire trip was pretty good. Things started out on the cool side but by midweek, the high temperatures during the days were in the mid to upper 80s. It turned out not to be that bad as Florida was (and still is) experiencing very dry conditions with low humidities. We had no rain at all during the entire week. As it turned out, we opted to upgrade our annual passes (APs) to premium annual passes (PAPs) so we had access to the Disney water parks when we needed to cool off.
Days 1 - 2, March 26th and 27th - Travel, Animal Kingdom (Planned and Actual)
We began our trip by picking up Brian and Katie from school in the afternoon. The plan was to drive to Tallahassee where we would spend Friday night and then drive the rest of the way on Saturday morning. Traffic was horrible in Birmingham and Montgomery so we didn't get to Tallahassee until after 11 pm. We stayed at a Comfort Inn just off I-10 for $65. The hotel looked nice but our room was dirty. By the time we got checked in we were too tired to raise a big stink about it so we just bit the bullet and made the best of it. After a continental breakfast of pastries and donuts, we were again on the road at 8:45 am. After reading a thread in the newsgroup rec.arts.disney.parks about taking HW 27 from the Florida Turnpike to WDW in lieu of I-4, we decided to give it a try...we won't do it again. While this route is shorter, there are several stop lights and the traffic moves slowly. We'll go back to I-4 again in the future. We stopped to eat lunch at a McDonalds on HW 192 and found it to be NASTY! The floors were filthy and there wasn't a clean table in the place. We turned around and walked out and ended up at a Burger King down the road.
We arrived at our resort, Fort Wilderness, at 1 pm and found the check-in area to be swamped with RVs. Of course the line we picked didn't budge for 20 minutes. We moved to another line that was moving along fine and then it stopped dead - doh!! Finally, after 40 minutes we were checked in. We had requested the 1300 loop when we made our reservation but were told that we would be in the 800 loop instead. I asked them to show me in the site book where the campsite was because we had also requested to be near a comfort station and I wanted to make sure that we wouldn't be too far away. As it turned out, site 826 was right behind the comfort station so we took it and we were pleased with it the entire stay.
We quickly set up the camper and did some minor first aid on Susan after she mysteriously cut her finger. We let the kids ride their bikes to the 1300 loop playground and to the Meadows Trading Post while we were unloading the Explorer and putting things away in the camper. Another new thing for us this trip was the use of a set of Motorola Talk About FRS radios. We would give one radio to the kids and keep one with us while at the campground. Whenever we wanted them to come back to the camper we could call them...they worked great!
We left for AK at 3 pm and arrived to find moderate crowds. Many folks were leaving but there were still plenty of people left in the park. We first headed for Maharaja Jungle Trek and did it after a brief wait outside. The Trek features iguana, tapir, which look like a cross between a bear and an elephant, large bats, tigers, different types of antelope and quite a few different types of birds. The tigers were in view from several viewing stations as were many of the antelope and birds. The Jungle Trek is definitely worth a visit. Kali River Rapids was down due to technical difficulties, which was fine with us as we'd forgotten our Mickey ponchos anyway. :-)
After stopping to play in the water fountains near Kali, we decided to go see the 5 pm "Journey Into Jungle Book". We knew the show wouldn't be around much longer so we thought we'd see it one last time. I liked it better than the last time we saw it. It seemed like they had redone Baloo's costume to make it look less bizarre, which may be one reason I liked the show more. After Jungle Book, we walked back over to Asia so Brian and Katie could squirt Kali riders from the bridge. If you look closely in the picture, you can see elephant's trucks squirting water onto the Kali boat below. These trunk squirters are activated by pressing big red buttons mounted on the bridge near the end of the ride. Just when unsuspecting riders think they've made it - SPRAY! ;-)
We figured by now the lines at the Kilimanjaro Safari would be small so we went there next. Doh! We hadn't noticed on the map where it said "Last safari at 5:45 pm" even though the park itself didn't close until 7 pm. Who looks at the map? :-)
***TIP*** It's a good idea to wait until the late afternoon/early evening to ride the Safaris to avoid long lines but be aware that the attraction closes early! If possible, get a park map at your resort's or another park's Guest Services if you don't already have one and check to see when the last Safari departs.
We settled for "It's Tough to be a Bug" instead. We walked right in with no wait at all. As others have said before, this show can be *very* unsettling for kids though this time we didn't hear any kids in hysterical frenzies or see any bailing out of the theater. It's a "stimulating" show, that's for sure.
We decided to split up with me going to Countdown to Extinction and Susan and the kids to the Boneyard. We used our radios to keep in touch with one another. I was disappointed to find a 30 minute wait for CtX so I just turned around and met the rest of the family back at the Boneyard. There I found Katie uncovering the remains of a great woolly mammoth! Brian was having fun climbing around on the other side of the playground and sliding down the slides. We had a close eye on our watches as we had priority seating reservations at the AK Rainforest Cafe. It was our first time to dine there. Katie had been bugging us to make reservations at Rainforest for quite sometime so we finally decided to give it a try.
After checking in at the podium it took about 15 minutes to be seated. While waiting, we entertained ourselves by watching the fish in the tube-like aquariums. We were seated in the gorilla room and were promptly visited by our waiter. He told us we were lucky as the wait time for our food was down to about 20 minutes. It had been 45 minutes earlier - ughhh! While looking at the menu, we soaked up all the atmosphere - there's plenty of it at the Rainforest. There were elephants, monkeys, a gorilla and cheetah, not to mention huge butterflies and various flora and fauna. We started with Forest Flatbread for an appetizer, then Susan ordered the Mojo Bones (BBQ ribs), I, the Mogambo Shrimp, Katie, the kids pasta and Brian, the chicken fingers. Susan rated the Mojo Bones good but not great. I could tell that I wouldn't have liked them as I like my ribs to be so tender the meat pulls right off the bone. The Mojo Bones didn't measure up. My Mogambo Shrimp was also good but not great. There was too much garlic in the sauce for my taste and I *like* garlic. Total for the meal, with our 15% Annual Passholders discount, was $60. We headed back to Fort Wilderness for showers and then called it a night.
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