My first WDW solo trip (long post)

About three weeks before graduation, I was stressing. I had family coming from all over the place. I’d had to change the menu for my graduation picnic twice. The weather alternated between predictions of thunderstorms all weekend to predictions of blistering heat. Work was frantic, and some of the people I really enjoyed working with were leaving the company. Then, to add to my troubles, DH discovered he’d have to work over the Independence Day weekend and the week following, so I’d be stuck at home alone with a pile of housework to do. In the midst of all of this, I was listening to Len Testa on WDW Today do a review of the bars of WDW, and I just decided…fuck it, I’m going to Disney World. By myself. Because I can.

Planning my post-grad celebration, despite being additional work, actually made the rest of my tasks seem easier. (Don’t get me wrong…I was so thrilled to have everyone come to visit me up at the Milwaukee Zoo, and the food and weather turned out to be faboo. It really just felt like that celebration was a happy blur with the WDW trip, but the weeks beforehand would have turned me into a frazzled mess had I not had this WDW trip in the back of my mind.) Touring Plans was predicting 9’s and 10’s for that whole weekend, but the best part about touring plans is that, when executed well, a touring plan makes you immune to crowds. I decided to run my trip the way I’d always wanted to do WDW: early morning in the park, afternoon disco nap and pool time, and then back to the park in the evening. That way, I avoided the heat and the worst of the crowds, mostly. I also got to enjoy my resort more.

Speaking of, I decided to stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort. Since the renovations, I’d wanted to stay in one of the Nemo rooms at CBR. DH had little interest, being the sort of person who goes by what The Unofficial Guide says as if it is gospel. 🙂 I managed to get a really great rate on the room thanks to my annual pass (and the help of my agent, Leslie, at Mouse Fan Travel!).

The flight to WDW was largely uneventful. I did find and nab some Chick-Fil-A at the Atlanta airport. I even bought up some spare sandwiches to use as breakfasts in my room! Mostly, I napped on the plane to podcasts as I had a late evening planned. From the point that I got off the plane, it took around 2 hours to get to the resort, which is not too bad. I had done the online check-in, so my check-in process was quite fast. I ended up in building 46 of Jamaica. I had heard that CBR was a less desirable resort because of the size and consequently slow bus service. I have to say that I had no problems with the bus service or the size of the resort. It felt smaller than Port Orleans Riverside in terms of walking distance. I will allow that my building was nicely placed for proximity to all of the things you’d want to do, but, looking around, I had a hard time picking out a building that would have been truly bad. Honestly, the only ones I’d have been sad about would have been Martinique and Trinidad, and, as it happens, those are mostly premium rooms because (ironically) their location is considered better. Martinique and Trinidad sit right next to the feature pool and restaurant building, but they’re also smack in the middle of the bus routes. Jamaica, OTOH, was always in a desirable position on the bus routes. At the end of the evening, it’s often the first stop. In the morning, it’s usually the last stop before heading to the park. This can vary widely, but my experience was that Jamaica and Barbados are probably the best buildings to be in for bus time optimization.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. During check-in, I was gifted my “I’m celebrating a personal triumph!” pins as well as a Pirates of the Caribbean temporary tattoo. CBR has an internal shuttle, so I hopped on that to go to my room. As my cellphone was nearly dead (my own stupidity in not bringing a spare battery and not taking advantage of places to charge at ATL), I took as much time as I could in the room before heading out to Magic Kingdom. I brewed myself some coffee and munched on one of my CFA sandwiches. As some of y’all know from my tweets, I trotted over to the bus stop, and a Magic Kingdom bus was there. The bus driver was in the process of loading a wheelchair-bound passenger, so, after making eye contact with him (I thought), I waited for him to finish by the front door of the bus. I could have been all loud and annoying while he was busy, but I opted for being quiet and respectful. In the interim, a bus returning from DHS came by and dropped a bunch of people off, and I ended up almost spraining my ankle and spilling my remaining (hot!) coffee all over myself trying to get out of the way of a stroller herd in motion. The Magic Kingdom bus pulled away just as I walked back up to the door. D’oh!

But, less than five minutes later, another MK bus pulled up, and this one was practically empty. I got a private ride to the Kingdom, and my driver kept me company along the way with his suggestions of things to do. (It was all stuff I knew about already, but I let him tell me things anyways.) Magic Kingdom was open until 2am that night, and I arrived at the entrance just before the beginning of Wishes. One lovely thing about being a solo/single person: you can salmon your way through crowds easier! I worked my way up Main Street, around the hub, and then back in to watch Wishes from the side of the castle. I got to my spot just before Tink flew. Then, as the crowd dissipated, I worked my way up to just in front of the castle to sit and watch the Magic, Memories, and You show. (If you’re not likely to get to see it in person, go watch this video, cry, and get back to me. If you think you might see it in person, just wait…stay spoiler free, because it’s breathtaking in person.) I did all of the rides I wanted to do that evening, including my first-ever ride on Space Mountain! I have to say that I don’t know that I want to ride SM again. I might try it one more time just in case it was adrenaline at play, but I found SM to be jerky-feeling. Because I couldn’t see where the track was turning, I couldn’t anticipate with my body how to lean. That plus the normal fear-tension led me to feel sore and stiff afterward. As for *how* I did Space Mountain, it was a matter of timing. SM had a 15 minute wait, and Thunder Mountain had a 45 minute wait. (Thank you, Lines app!) So, I decided to at least go through SM’s queue, and by the time I got to the front, the cast members urging me along convinced me to hop in.

I was back at the hotel and in bed by 3am, only to wake up and head out to DHS 3.5 hours later. I was at the front of the rope drop crowd and raced along to the back of the park for a Toy Story fastpass. After a first ride of Toy Story, I headed to Star Tours. I was worried that Star Tours’ line would build up, too, but it was practically walk-on all morning. After my second Star Tours ride, I met up with a DIS-er, and we rode a few more times together. Then, we went to Great Movie Ride and Animation Academy before having lunch at Mama Melrose. It was great fun meeting up with her and having a bit of company. After lunch, we went over to Toy Story, but the wait had (predictably) skyrocketed to 90+ minutes, and she had not gotten a fastpass. Thus, I ended up doing the Star Trek ride dick move of hugging her bye as I happily trotted onto the ride with my fastpass. I did manage to get my best score ever on the ride, though:

After that, I headed back to the hotel for a nap and swim. I wasn’t hungry when I woke up (Mama Melrose is quite filling), so I had a soda in the room and headed over to Downtown Disney. There, I found permanent straws with a mickey pattern! Bonus! It’s like they made it just for me! I also picked up a Mickey plaid mini-backpack to use as a park bag, as my park purse turned out to have a magnet closure that was screwing up my annual pass. They were doing a dance party by the lake, so I joined in that for awhile to work up an appetite. I decided to head over to the Wilderness Lodge and visit the Territory bar for dinner. Len had recommended it for the food and atmosphere, and I definitely enjoyed it. The bar offers a selection of wines from the Northwest US (Washington and Oregon, mainly) as well as some standard bar fare. I had the honey ginger wings, which were delectable. I also sampled a few different wines and found a Cabernet that, despite being kind of dry, really agreed with me. It tasted like smoked hickory. I’d mention the wine by name, but I didn’t note it and none of my Disney info sites seem to have the full bar menu for Territory Lounge posted (possibly because they change out the wines fairly often?). I also took this opportunity to write thank you postcards to all of the people that had come out for graduation and/or sent things. Unfortunately, that meant I was a bit toasted while writing…so some of my cards were a bit, hmm, unusually happy and affectionate. 🙂

I got a good night’s sleep before my EPCOT day.
I actually ended up with three fastpasses for Soarin by the time I left after lunch. I also did the Behind the Seeds tour. One of the coolest parts of the Behind the Seeds tour was interacting with a hypersensitive plant.
This is what it looks like before it’s touched or shaken:
And this is what it looks like after it’s been touched or shaken:
And here’s a video of me touching the leaves so you can see them retract:

We also got to feed the tilapia and release some beneficial ladybugs on the plants of our choice. I chose to release mine on some pumpkin plants being grown hydroponically.

After the tour, I rode Soarin’ one more time and had lunch at Sunshine Seasons before heading back to the resort. At the resort, there were cranes, just kinda hanging out, right next to the path. It was a bit scary!

I went back to EPCOT in the evening for Illuminations and dinner, as well as a stop by the pavilions for shopping. I had dinner at Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco. The dinner was good and unique, but it’s not something I feel a need to do again. I liked the belly dancers, though! For Illuminations, I staked out a good spot a little over an hour in advance. Duffy kept me company while waiting. He also got 2 new outfits on this trip, including the Canada outfit he’s sporting here!
Fireworks shows were really the only time I felt the crowds during my trip. I thought I was going to have to cut a bitch to defend my spot at one point. And one woman, about twenty minutes before the show, specifically directed her daughter to go stand in front of me (without asking or anything) and then *yelled* at the girl when she felt understandably uncomfortable with the idea and headed back to her mom. I mean, if someone asks me, I’m totally polite, but if you shove your way in front of me, or try to squeeze me out of the way, I’m going to do a great impression of a stone column. After all, I specifically got there very early and picked the spot out, sat down, and didn’t leave. Coming a half hour in advance and trying to shove your way in front of me is not cool, no matter how old you are. But, regardless, I got some great pictures of the show.

Monday was my last day at WDW for this trip. There were early magic hours at Animal Kingdom, but I also needed to get out of my hotel room before I left, as checkout was at 11am but I didn’t have to be back at the hotel for Magical Express until 2:30pm. I was kind of panicking on what the process would be. I knew the resort would hold my bags, but how would I get my bags over to the Customs House? Did I need to figure on a bus ride each way (and potentially waiting 15-20 minutes for the bus)? I called bell services, and the castmember there explained it all to me.

So, what ended up happening made Caribbean Beach get lots of bonus points in my book. It turns out that, if you’re checking out of Caribbean Beach Resort and are using Disney’s (free!) airport checkin service with your bags, all you have to do is call and make an appointment with the bell desk the night before your checkout, for any time (though the earlier you call, the less chance that you’ll have to take a different appointment time than you prefer). My appointment was at 6:40am. At that time, the bellhop knocked on my door, handed over a packet with my room charge receipt and bag check fee receipt, and collected me and my luggage. He took my bags and walked with me out to the pull-around area in front of Jamaica, where an air conditioned van was waiting. He loaded my bags into the van (tagging any that I wanted to check with bell services versus checking into the airline) and drove me over to the Customs House (where bell services and checkin/checkout is). There, the BAGS services folks checked my ID and checked my bag for the airlines, as well as printing out my boarding passes (on awesome Mickey boarding pass paper!). The whole process took less than ten minutes, door to door. It’s possible other moderates have this, but, Caribbean Beach Resort is the first one I’ve found. I really loved that they provided a van to haul you and your stuff so that you a) don’t have to wait on the buses and b) don’t have to drag your luggage all over the place.

After that, I hopped on the internal resort shuttle. I let the driver know that I was transferring to catch a bus to Animal Kingdom, and he radio’d to find where to take me so that I could catch one right then. Between that and the bag check process being so fast, I was at Animal Kingdom well in advance of rope drop, such that I was front of line at a turnstile. I had brought some cans of soda with me, still cold from the fridge in my room, and I dosed up while reading Ender’s Shadow on my Kindle. Being front of line allowed me to dash back for the first Kilimanjaro Safari of the morning. As I’d heard, the animals were much more active, and the “guides” were more willing to stop, on the first safari of the day.
We had an oryx stop our safari at one point because he stood in front of the truck and then licked it for awhile.

After the safari, I walked the trails. Then, I headed over to Camp Minnie-Mickey to see the Lion King show. While I was waiting on a park bench (and getting my camera changed with indoor lenses instead of my telephoto), someone fuzzy reached around behind me! It was Chip! He had snuck up on me and hugged me from behind. 🙂 I was so happy! So, of course, I had to take that chance to get photos with some of the characters before the show.

I ended up with a perfect spot for Lion King, elevated but with no one in front of me to block my view.

After that, I did a little bit of shopping around and walked the trails around the Tree of Life before calling it a day. My cellphone was low on power, so I decided to go ahead back to the resort so I’d have time to charge my phone before heading to the airport. (Of course, at the time, I thought I wouldn’t have a ton of time at the airport!)

If you follow my Twitter feed, you know that my flight got delayed out of MCO and then my flight from ATL to home got cancelled after many delays. So, my trip home wasn’t that great, but I’m still so happy I decided to go on this solo trip. It was really fun, and I enjoyed the efficiency of just doing what I wanted to do. 🙂

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