10. Parking is easy 55 minutes before park closing
Friday I sped as fast as was advisable to try and make it to the Animal Kingdom by 7:00 PM — just in time for one final hour! I had my AP and license ready to show the gate guard, but as I approached, I found the booths empty. I guess they don’t anticipate many speeding assholes hell bent on a smoked turkey sandwich from Flame Tree at that time of night.
Tree of Life at night.
In turn, there were also no parking lot attendants abusing their power to steer me into a shitty spot of their choosing. I sped toward the head of the lot, was highly tempted to park in a handicapped spot, but ultimately “did the right thing” and parked the first legal row behind those. So close.
But you know what was oddly crowded at that hour? Guest Relations. I guess it makes sense: everyone exiting the park, passing by, thinking, “gee, now’s probably a good time to go in and ask if my child can simply be handed all of the missing Wilderness Explorer stickers that she didn’t earn, only to be told ‘no,’ resulting in her screaming because she’s never heard Mommy and Daddy use this word before.”
Definitely not a great time for those of us in a hurry to try picking up a Tables in Wonderland card because damnit, I really wanted to save $2.00 on that turkey sandwich.
9. Hotwire is your friend
I’d been mostly scared out of ever trying Hotwire after hearing tales of “4 star” hotels turning out to be someone’s basement that was deemed unfit even for AirBNB, but when I saw a 3 star hotel in the Universal area listed for $7 a night, it seemed irresponsible not to purchase it. $15 later (damn you, taxes and fees!), I had myself a room and free breakfast! Hell, the price was so right, I bumped my stay up to two nights.
(Quick explanation for anyone not familiar with Hotwire: it’s a discount travel site that allows you to purchase a hotel room or car or whatever based on price and description alone — you have no idea what hotel you’re actually booking until after you’ve paid. Hence the “sounds great on paper!” and then you click “Purchase,” and next thing you know, you’ve rented the dumpster behind Seaworld where they toss the expired chum.)
My Mystery Hotel turned out to be the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham. It was clean, and I felt safe there. Ultimately, that’s what’s most important to me. Was it the sexiest hotel? No. Did the stove top of my kitchenette look like it was more likely to start a fire than it was to boil water? Maybe. Did the outlets next to the bed actually work, charging my phone overnight? 8% battery the next morning says no. But it suited my needs just fine. For $15 a night, would recommend to a friend.
8. Do not load up on free food just because it’s free
Hell, for $20 a night, would recommend to a friend, because breakfast was wonderful!*
*I get blinded by hunger pangs and the label “free” when applied to anything. It was your typical Hampton Inn complimentary breakfast: oatmeal, scrambled eggs, bagels, waffles, greasy meat options, etc. Said pangs and desire to abuse free offerings led to stuffing my face with two plates of food (in my defense, they had strawberry sauce and whipped cream for the waffles!). The result? Absolutely no room four hours later for Food and Wine booths at Epcot. I am the worst tourist ever.
Lesson learned: prioritize what you put in your mouth.
That’s actually really great life advice — even beyond Disney. You’re welcome.
7. Do not drink a liquid lunch before a bar crawl
What to do at Food and Wine if the very thought of eating anything makes you want to curl into a fetal position on the floor of the Chase Lounge? Drink, of course!
Such an attractive lunch!
Toto, we’re not at Epcot anymore.
I ended up with the Brewer’s Collection Beer Flight #2 (smoked beer? Would not recommend to a friend) with the earnest hope that by the time I finished sitting and relaxing with my four little lovelies, I’d magically have room for escargot and noodle gratin.
I did not.
Instead, I ended up having another beer, this time with fellow Disney lover, Kristen. And then another. Next thing you know, I’m taking selfies with the Tree of Life, ultimately realize I’m not even at Ecpot anymore, and I still haven’t managed to eat any solid food.
Did I mention that my evening plans included a bar crawl?
I make poor life choices.
6. How to win over a Disney-skeptic
Actually, I did not learn this. No idea how it happened. All I know is, Mark joined me for the first time ever for an evening at Disney World. We met at the Contemporary and had dinner at the Wave, then he followed me to the Boardwalk for drinking with hip people, and then we went back to the illustrious Hawthorn Suites. And he actually enjoyed himself. No complaining, no mocking, no tantrums, no heavy sighs, no glaring, no threatening to punch tourists. Amazing.
How did I do it? I don’t know… but I may try it again. And maybe — just maybe! — I can someday get him in the parks.
5. The Hipsters are lovely people
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not surprised that they’re lovely people — I just wanted to go on public record stating such. We met up with Jamie, Keith, Andrew, and Adam of the Disney Hipsters on their bar crawl/meet-up around Crescent Lake. I’m always a little apprehensive to attend events like this, just because due to the public “come one, come all!” nature of it, you never know what kind of crowd you’ll get. The last thing I want is to be recognizing people from Dateline’s To Catch a Predator. Or DrunkAtDisney.
Luckily, everyone* who showed up seemed perfectly lovely, and nice, and normal, and not at all creepy! I was very happy we went. I finally got to meet the Hipsters**, Mark met Mark, and Meg “met” me for the second time. Fun had by all!
4. Backpacks have their pros and cons
For the past two years, I’ve been using the same messenger bag as my Disney Bag — it does nothing other than go with me on Disney trips. However, my hoarding tendencies have apparently reached such a new high that the bag had become too heavy, forcing me to seek out a more ergonomic option. And thus The Backpack has entered my life.
This trip was my first time with The Backpack. It’s a cute little number from Kohl’s. Lots of exterior pockets for phone, pins, and other easy-access essentials. Minimal interior pockets annoys me, but I’ll live.
I was ready to open my heart when Saturday night, walking back to our cars, a woman stopped me on the Boardwalk. Naturally, I assumed she was a fan — either of me, or maybe The Backpack — both are natural contenders, obviously.
Nay, the woman was tapping me on the shoulder to inform me that with every step I took, The Backpack was inching up my dress, higher and higher, tucking it in behind The Backpack, ultimately leaving me Bottomless on the Boardwalk.
That creepy person at the Hipsters Meetup that you think you recognize from To Catch a Predator? Possibly me.
Also, fuck you, Backpack.
3. Rope Drop is not good enough
Sunday was to be my first time ever riding the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I had a 9:20 AM FP+ (the only time left available), but I wanted to ride it more than once, so I planned on rope-dropping the Magic Kingdom and heading straight there.
As per usual, I was running ten minutes late. So instead of getting through bag check at 8:40, I was getting through at 9:03.
Did I say ten minutes? I meant 23.
But still… three minutes behind park opening! Big deal, right?
Totally right! If by “big deal” we’re talking about the length of the line at Mine Train. At 9:07 AM, by the time I entered the line, it reached Storybook Circus and was estimated at 60 minutes.
2. Do not fuck with Scoop
I believe it was true fate that led me to Scoop yesterday — as I was exiting the Emporium to cross Main Street on my way out of the park, I literally walked into a huddle of people waiting for Scoop Sanderson to appear and trade pins. Naturally, I stopped to eavesdrop and learned that he was expected at 1:00. I looked at my watch: 1:01. Fate. Kismet. MyMagic+.
With 60 minutes, you have a lot of time to stare at the Mine Train queue.
Six minutes later, Scoop showed up. By now, a decent size group had formed, maybe about 10 to 15 people. And with the fanfare of Scoop’s arrival along with other characters of Main Street, this drew even more attention and thus more people. We were looking at maybe 20 to 30 by now.
Scoop goes through his usual friendly introductions, making it a point to actually learn people’s names (he knew my name was from a song!), recognizing people he’s traded with before, introducing us to the other characters of Main Street, leading us in a song, asking trivia questions, asking who’s new, and finally using a number guessing game to determine where we’d start the line for pin trading.
Ultimately, this is what makes Scoop Scoop — this is what sets him apart from any random pin trading CM; he’s always determined to make the interactions special, personal, informative, and fun.
Sadly, I think his social (and impunctual) nature worked against him on this fair day as the scene started to get ugly…
First, you had the world’s ugliest and pushiest child, a girl whose likeness I’ll compare to a potential offspring resulting from the illicit sexual dalliance of Chunk and Sloth from the Goonies. If I believed her to be truly handicapped, I would never say such insensitive things. But I don’t believe her to be handicapped by anything other than poor parenting and bangs she had clearly cut herself.
Chunk/Sloth (Choth? Slunk? Let’s go with Slunk) shoved her way through the crowd, and thrust two pins at Scoop just as he’d arrived and started talking. She was completely oblivious to the people who were there before her, or the fact that Scoop was trying to talk to the crowd, or that he hadn’t even opened up his vest to reveal his pins. — Oh, but don’t worry about that last part, because Slunk just went ahead and used her other grubby paw to try and unbutton the vest herself. The brat literally tried to undress Scoop. Where were her parents? Why, they were beaming proudly in the background — how precious that Slunk has learned to use her opposable thumbs!
Luckily, when we get to the part of this doomed tale where Scoop was using a numbers game to determine where the trading line would start, little Slunko ended up at the end of the line. My heart lifted; fate struck twice that day!
Scoop stated that he needed to be finished by 1:30, so he had been very clear that he wasn’t allowing more people to join the line. The Main Street band happened to come by right about then, so Scoop moved the line inside the Emporium. By this point, about half the people had made their trades. Imagine his surprise, then, when Slunk appeared next in line.
This story has gone on long enough, so I’ll wrap this up: I’m not exactly sure what happened next, but shit got ugly fast. Scoop confronted Slunk and her mother, who avidly denied any wrong-doing, saying they were simply joining Daddy Slunk in his mid-line position (why the family wasn’t initially standing in line together, I don’t know — maybe Daddy Slunk is embarrassed to be seen with his daughter in public? I wouldn’t blame him). Then Scoop called out some other kids for joining the line after he’d said no more additions; those kids started crying. Scoop called out another person for jumping in the line; that mother starts yelling in response. Scoop announced that he would now only trade one pin with each remaining person in line; more unhappy people grumble. The air was tense. A riot seemed inevitable.
It was about this point where A) I felt bad for Scoop and wondered why he didn’t have a handler like every other meet ‘n’ greet character, and B) I began to fear Scoop, as I saw the rage boiling inside of him. I think if it weren’t for the many witnesses and the importance of Always Staying In Character, Scoop would’ve lost his shit. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes home, makes his own explosives using Disney pins as shrapnel, and then uses them to blow up Goonies action figures.
There’s a darkness to that man.
Ultimately, he finished trading with everyone there — gritting his teeth in what I assume was an attempt at a forced smile, but ended up looking more like a snarl. The crying kids were coaxed back into the line, and the angry mother and her daughter were also permitted to trade. Everyone made it through the line, but I think a little piece of their Disney dream died that day… and another piece of Scoop’s fragile psyche cracked.
1. I’m in a strange Local/Non-Local limbo
Break out your tiny violins, because I’m about to start bitching about my first world problems.
You see, I’m trapped in this Disney Purgatory where I don’t have the luxury of living close enough to WDW to visit any ol’ day, but I also don’t live so far away that my only visits are micro-planned months in advance and treated like a special vacation.
I find myself feeling the usual Non-Local pressure of trying to see and do it all, lest I not get the chance again for awhile — yet I’m feeling the Local mentality of, “this isn’t a vacation, so I can’t be running around shops, buying myself presents and souvenirs or splurging on big dinners and such; it’s just another weekend to me.”
I assume that I’ll eventually get used to living three hours away — after all, this was only my second time there since moving to Florida. But meanwhile, I found myself going to bed last night regretting not doing more, knowing there was so much I missed, and feeling like a Disney failure. Woe is me!
Good thing I’ll be back in less than a month to make it up to myself :)
(Feel free to leave any and all hate mail in the Comments section).
I want this.