Just Mom and Me -- Our late November 2018 trip

jrmint427

Mouseketeer
Joined
Aug 19, 2013
I love the framed photo! The time leading up to the holidays always feels hectic, hope you get to enjoy some down time soon!
 

useakiss

Am I there yet?
Joined
Jan 11, 2017
Friday, November 30th

Once again, Mom and I were up early and had a quick breakfast in our room.

This was also the “check out” day for the first half of our booked stay, so there was a printout of the bill slipped under our door. I read over it and spotted something that set off my alarms. There was a $30 charge for “Movies/Entertainment In-Room.” Baffled, I asked Mom if she maybe had watched an on-demand movie while I was doing that time share presentation back on Tuesday, but she said no. Even so, $30 for a movie?! So as soon as I was showered and dressed, I headed down to the front desk to question the bill. They pulled up the account and said that the charge was indeed for an on-demand film—“Little Foot,” to be exact. Baffled, I said that this was hardly the kind of film my Mom would watch. They said that in fact it was only watched for about 2 minutes. $30 for 2 minutes?! The lady said that clearly this was just an accident on my Mom’s party—she was probably just flipping channels—and that they would reverse the charge, which she did.

Life Lesson: ALWAYS read the bill, and ALWAYS question things that don’t make sense. Seriously, $30 for 2 minutes.

The temperature was still cool that morning, but certainly the warmest yet since we’d arrived. We wore just a light single jacket over a t-shirt and were comfortable. We arrived in time to walk right through security at the entrance, and headed straight for the gate for the Africa portion of the park. Because we were only planning to spend the first half of the day in the park, and because we didn’t have a Fastpass for a morning safari, I made the decision that we should skip Flight of Passage this day and instead go straight for the Kilimanjaro Safari to do before the line got long. It was the right decision.


Magic Moment: While waiting for the rope to drop, we struck up a conversation with a retired couple, and they explained how they were Annual Pass holders and came to the parks every day (excluding holidays, weekends, and bad weather) just to get exercise, and how they rode the safari each morning. Now that’s a Life Goal!

As soon as the rope dropped, we moved en masse to the Safari entrance and got in line. The line moved pretty fast, although we did pause just a moment to watch this feeding/training moment between one of the cast members and this crowned crane (not sure if black or grey crowned crane). We learned that they train all the animals daily, in part to keep them busy but also to make it easier if/when they need to be called into shelter quickly due to bad weather, etc.



A lot of animals were on in the morning and we had a grand time. Mom really loved the safari in particular (no surprise), and was genuinely surprised by how close we got to some of the animals.



At one point we had to pause and wait because an ostrich had the right of way on the road.



The giraffes are always a highlight because they tend to be close to the road and aren’t afraid of the trucks. They’re just so impressive and beautiful.



The lions were also being cooperative and up, which was very cool.



The only downside to the safaris is that they’re pushed for time and so rarely pause long enough for you to get good photos. I really wish there was an option for a longer ride. Many of the pics I attempted were either blurred or poorly framed because we were bouncing along, or just too far away to be distinct.

At one point, as we were rolling along, Mom turned to me and, completely deadpan, said, “I had a farm in Africa…” She was quoting “Out of Africa” and I burst out laughing. This picture captured the moment. She looked right at home.



Afterward, we still had time to walk over to the Asia portion of the park to make our first Fastpass (9:05-10:05 am) for Expedition Everest, although we had to walk quickly. It was the first time Mom got a good look at it and she admitted she was a little intimidated by it, but she’s a trooper and we got in line.




It reaffirmed my opinion that it’s one of my top three favorite rides in Disney World, although Mom said she still preferred Big Thunder Mountain more. I do think she missed a lot of the charm of this attraction by only riding once and using the Fastpass—she missed all the details and storyline that you see while in the longer line. Since we were only doing short days, we didn’t have time to return for a second ride. She did enjoy the ride enough to want a T-shirt, but she didn’t find an adult one that she liked enough to purchase (although there was a really cute child’s shirt that we both wanted!).



When we were finished, we started making our way back toward Africa because we only had about 30 minutes before our next Fastpass (10:30-10:45 am) for Festival of the Lion King. So again we didn’t really have time to linger and look at details.

As we were walking, we heard quite a ruckus going on, a lot of loud hooting. We did pause long enough to enjoy the show. You could literally hear them from across the park.





We arrived in time and got a great seat in the third row for Festival of the Lion King. It’s a unique live show that is unlike the famous Broadway show. This is more of a Cirque du Soleil show featuring acrobatics to music from the movie along with one or two other songs (Lion Sleeps Tonight, etc.). It’s an impressive and wonderful show, and IMO the best left show on property, which is saying a lot. I absolutely recommend seeing this!

It was around 11:30 am when we exited the theater, so I thought it was a good time to go find some lunch, before it got real busy. I suggested we do something unique and we headed in the direction of Pandora to eat at Satu'li Canteen. It’s a beautifully themed counter-service restaurant, but the weather was finally warming up enough that we decided to sit outside to eat. We invited shared a young couple and their two little kids to share our large table, and we enjoyed listening to the kids talk about their favorite things in the parks. We ordered and split the following: “Steamed Cheeseburger Pod stuffed with Ground Beef, Ketchup, Mustard, Pickle and Cheddar Cheese served with Vegetable Chips, and crunchy Vegetable Slaw and Boba Balls”, “Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse with Passion Fruit Curd”, and two Pandoran Sunrise (“Refreshing balance of Tropical Juices blended with Powerade® Melon”). It was all very tasty and we were satisfied with things (although I think the balance in the pods was off—it needed a greater proportion of filling to wrapping because it was borderline dry and the flavor was weakened). Those chips, though, were perfect!



By the time we finished eating, it was after Noon. We had a last Fastpass already active for Kali River Rapids, but neither of us was really in the mood to hurry all the way back to the Asia part of the park, or to get soaking wet (it wasn’t THAT warm yet), so we made the decision to just cancel the reservation. I used the app and cancelled it, then looked to see what I could book in its place. The options were extremely limited, but there was a spot in an hour for Dinosaur, so I went ahead and booked it.

This new booking gave us an hour to wander around a little and explore a bit of Pandora in the daytime. Mom admitted that a lot of it was lost on her because she’s never seen the movie, but it’s still a stunning and beautifully designed and landscaped area. She’d seen some of it on TV when it was featured on the View at opening, and she was happy to see it in person to get the real scope of the place. We also did a little shopping along the way, scoping out things we might want to buy later. Mom had told me that she was hoping to find a cool purse of some sort that was safari themed, but no luck.

We walked over to Dinosaur for our Fastpass. Mom’s not really into dinosaurs at all, and I wasn’t impressed with this attraction last time, but we both decided to give it a shot. While it still isn’t a great ride, IMO, it was a little better this time than my first impression. I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it again, though. This ride is super dark (this photo has a bright flash) and things just jump out at you most of the time, like an old school haunted house tour.



We paused in front of the Tree of Life for a couple of pictures. We didn't have time to explore around the tree that day--we had time blocked for the following day to do that.




Magic Moment: While in front of the tree, we caught a very special presentation about parrots. I screwed up with my iPhone during the first portion (thought I was recording but only got a picture), but I did catch the last half. The host was standing in front of this big tree-like perch, and she was talking about how rare some of these birds were, particularly the blue macaw parrot. Sadly, this particular parrot was just declared extinct in the wild this year, but Disney still has a breeding population onsite, and we were about to be treated to a sight that we will not see anywhere else in the world. And suddenly an entire flock of the gorgeous birds swooped in and perched on the stand behind her. She talked for a while about them, and then told us to get ready for when they fly again. It was a very powerful and breathtaking moment that was over too fast.

By this point it was around 2 pm and because we were doing shorter days, we thought this was a good time to head back to our room to relax and give our feet a break. We did take our time working toward the exit, checking out the gift shops a little more and exploring the trails in the “Oasis” area that you pass through. These trails are part of why we both loved this park so much—it’s just gorgeous and immersive. Like that retired couple, I would gladly walk this area every day.

We came across the anteater exhibit and I was able to snap these awesome pics!



We left the park around 2:30 pm and took a Lyft ride back to our hotel. Although the weather had certainly warmed up a bit, it was still a little chilly if not in the sunlight, but we really wanted to try the pool and hot tub because we probably wouldn’t get another chance. We threw on our suits and coverups, and headed outside.

I will give the hotel/time share credit—they have awesome pools, many of them in all sorts of shapes and even a couple of themed ones (a pirate ship, 2 lazy rivers, etc.), plus a really nice cabana bar/restaurant nearby. However, the chilly air kept us from wandering from our own pool. Then we swapped over to the hot tub to ease our aching feet and muscles. That felt really good! At one point I hopped out long enough to buy us something to sip while in the hot tub.

Afterward, we went back upstairs, got dressed, and then debated what to do for dinner. Neither of us felt like leaving the hotel, and the restaurants inside the hotel were very pricey and the acoustics were terribly loud, so we decided to go back outside to the cabana to see what was on the menu. We were pleasantly surprised! The menu was very respectable, and we decided to pick a gourmet burger to split (it was huge and plenty for both of us). They also surprised us by cutting the burger in half and sending the foot out in separate baskets with our own servings of fries (which were excellent!). I wish I’d thought to take a picture—it was all very tasty, and for a reasonable price.

We lingered there for a little while, but it was also a bit loud (several large parties with lots of kids), which we’d had enough of for the day, so we decided to just retire to our room for the rest of the evening. We talked a lot and watched a little TV and then turned in for the nigh, exhausted.
 
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jrmint427

Mouseketeer
Joined
Aug 19, 2013
Life Lesson: ALWAYS read the bill, and ALWAYS question things that don’t make sense. Seriously, $30 for 2 minutes.
That is just crazy!! And terrible that it’s so easy to make a $30 mistake just by flipping channels.

they explained how they were Annual Pass holders and came to the parks every day (excluding holidays, weekends, and bad weather) just to get exercise, and how they rode the safari each morning. Now that’s a Life Goal!
That is my new life goal!! Seriously though, I want to retire at WDW.

he lions were also being cooperative and up, which was very cool.
I’ve never seen the lions standing up there!

He saw our matching birthday buttons and called us over to give us a special gift.
That is so sweet and special.

She talked for a while about them, and then told us to get ready for when they fly again. It was a very powerful and breathtaking moment that was over too fast.
We missed the show but those birds flew over us a few times at AK! It was amazing and I was sad I didn’t have my camera ready either time.
 
  • useakiss

    Am I there yet?
    Joined
    Jan 11, 2017
    Edit: I just realized that I accredited that magical video of Mom and I being sung "Happy Birthday" to the wrong day. This happened during our second day in Animal Kingdom, not the first day. Honestly, it's a bit of a blur. I'll adjust when I post the second day.
     

    useakiss

    Am I there yet?
    Joined
    Jan 11, 2017
    So evidently there's a storage limit on DIS for photos, and I've maxed out. I need to find a different place to store my pics so I can link to them from here. Does anyone have a recommendation?
     

    jrmint427

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 19, 2013
    So evidently there's a storage limit on DIS for photos, and I've maxed out. I need to find a different place to store my pics so I can link to them from here. Does anyone have a recommendation?
    I’m not sure if this is what you’re already doing, but I upload pictures to each post. It only lets me upload 10 pictures per post so I end up writing shorter chapters once I hit my picture limit per post. To do this, I have to resize the pictures I want to use to be smaller. But I’ve never hit an overall limit on the Dis doing this.
     
  • useakiss

    Am I there yet?
    Joined
    Jan 11, 2017
    I’m not sure if this is what you’re already doing, but I upload pictures to each post. It only lets me upload 10 pictures per post so I end up writing shorter chapters once I hit my picture limit per post. To do this, I have to resize the pictures I want to use to be smaller. But I’ve never hit an overall limit on the Dis doing this.
    Yes, but don't you need to upload them somewhere else first? It's asking for a URL address. How are you doing it?
     

    useakiss

    Am I there yet?
    Joined
    Jan 11, 2017
    I apologize for being so late with continuing this blog. Real life, frustration with photos, and growing inertia kept interrupting my good intentions. Fortunately the forum has changed mechanics, making it so much friendlier for adding media. At this stage I’ve likely forgotten or confused some of the details, but I’ll do my best…

    Saturday, December 1st

    This was the first morning of our entire trip in which we finally were able to sleep in properly and take our time getting ready for the day. The hotel had shuttles that ran to the parks, but their hours were rarely convenient; however, we decided that their 11:00 am run to Animal Kingdom would be a great option, getting us to the park at a reasonable time and giving us room to wander the trails a bit before our late lunch reservation.

    We took our time wandering the trails of the Oasis and Discovery Island. Family trips to the Milwaukee public zoo were always the highlight of every summer, so I knew we would enjoy this part together, and I was right.


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    Since the forum has a limit on pictures per post, this seems like a good place to break. Please see the next post for a continuation of this day...
     
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    useakiss

    Am I there yet?
    Joined
    Jan 11, 2017
    Saturday, December 1st (Continued)

    We had a 1:55 pm lunch reservation at Tusker House. That was excellent, and easily the best character meal I’ve done, both character- and food-wise. There was a nice range of African and Indian dishes, along with more pedestrian standards. We also got to meet the Big Four in their cool safari gear, which makes it a bit more unique than the usual way you see those characters. I didn’t think to snap a picture of our entrée plates, but here are the desserts we tried.
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    After dinner, we explored the Gorilla Falls/Africa trail and did a little shopping.

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    Since the forum has a limit on pictures per post, this seems like a good place to break. Please see the next post for a continuation of this day...
     
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  • useakiss

    Am I there yet?
    Joined
    Jan 11, 2017
    Saturday, December 1st (Continued)

    Our first Fast Pass was at 4:20-5:20 pm for the Kilimanjaro Safari. We didn’t see as many animals on this one, and not one elephant, which was a bummer, but it’s still a great attraction and we would gladly have rode this all day. We did catch a nice glimpse of the cheetah walking around. There was also a baby giraffe that we all got to coo over. We were shocked by just how close the rhinos were on this ride—I’d always assumed they were in enclosures like the elephants, but these guys were right in the ditch next to us!
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    Since the forum has a limit on pictures per post, this seems like a good place to break. Please see the next post for a continuation of this day...
     
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    useakiss

    Am I there yet?
    Joined
    Jan 11, 2017
    Saturday, December 1st (Continued)

    At one point we managed to squeeze in A Bug's Life, and I was very happily surprised by how much fun we had in that show. Definitely worth doing again.

    Some more videos from this day.





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    Magic Moment: We stopped in Harambe Village to share a Dole Whip, FINALLY (it had been so cold all the previous days, but by this point it was definitely warming up, into the low 80s) and enjoy one of the live music shows going on there. This musician is so good, and his instrument is fascinating, so of course we stopped for a few minutes to watch. He saw our matching birthday buttons and called us over to give us a special gift.


    It was dusk by this point and the trails were closing, so we never got to do the Asia trail, so that was missed on this trip. I was a bit bummed by this because I never got a good look at the tigers on my previous vacation, either.

    We made our way over to Pandora for our second Fast Pass at 5:40-6:40 pm for Na'vi River Journey. Mom liked it, but she’s never actually seen the movie! I still think it’s a bit of a letdown because nothing actually happens in it until you see the one guy at the end. But it’s air conditioned and you’re sitting, so I’m good.

    It was evening by the time we were done with NRJ, and we had our third Fast Pass for the 6:50-7:15 pm Rivers of Light. However, it meant trekking all the way back over to the Asia part of the park, and never getting to ride Flight of Passage on this trip. We found a park bench and sat down, and I explained that we had a choice of doing one or the other there at the end of the day, but that we wouldn’t have time to do both. The wait for FoP was down to a “manageable” 70 minutes and that I felt it was worth it if she was up to it, but that it was her decision. My Mom, the trooper that she is, decided she wanted to do the ride instead. Love her! So we walked over, made a quick restroom break, and then joined the que for FOP. It was still a test of endurance, but at least the line is visually interesting most of the time so that the boredom is down to a minimum. Mom admitted that she was worried about this ride because she didn’t know anything other than that it was exciting—and she didn’t know how serious that might be. I reassured her that I thought she’d be fine and that she’d really enjoy it. She was game but still a little nervous. Because she’s never seen the film, she had no clue about the storyline or anything else, so I did my best to flesh things out a bit. We were exhausted by the time we finally straddled those “bikes” and put on the 3D glasses. I did notice that they must have redesigned the glasses since my visit in 2017 because they stayed on much better over our own eyeglasses, which was nice. When it was all over, Mom was laughing and all excited. She’d had a blast! She said it was her new favorite, bumping Big Thunder Mountain to second place.

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    Although we missed the main laser light show on the lake, we did end up catching most of the amazing light show projected against the Tree of Life. It absolutely rewards those with the patience to just sit and watch it.

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    Overall, while we missed the night show, I thought this was the perfect way to end our vacation in the parks, going out on a high note. We summoned a Lyft back to the hotel, and crashed into our beds for the night.
     
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    useakiss

    Am I there yet?
    Joined
    Jan 11, 2017
    Sunday, December 2nd

    This was our last full day of vacation. We deliberately planned to relax this day, starting with a lazy morning.

    For about a year or so, my Mom and Dad lived on Key West, Florida (I happened to be born there as well) while he was stationed there as part of a submarine crew. They became close friends with another Navy family and stayed in touch all these years. While they would occasionally meet up either up in WI or down in FL, I hadn’t seen them in person since our last family trip to Disney back in the mid-80s. Once I knew Mom and I were definitely doing this new trip, it occurred to me that this might be a perfect time to meet up if they were willing to make the drive over from where they live in Crystal River, FL. I reached out to them and we talked for some time, catching up on things, and they were enthusiastic about the idea. They booked a night in a nearby hotel, which would allow them to spend the entire afternoon and evening with us before we had to fly out the next morning.

    I summoned a Lyft ride over to Disney Springs around Noon. We’d barely set foot into the open mall when we got the call from our friends, Larry and Karen Kelly, that they had arrived at their hotel, were checking in, and would be on their way over to Disney Springs shortly. Although they were natives and used to go to WDW all the time with their kids (roughly the same ages as my brother and me), they hadn’t returned in many years and most of it was as new to them as it had been to my Mom and me. This plus some heavy construction had delayed their drive over longer than anticipated.

    Since it was still likely to be a couple of hours, Mom and I did some last-minute shopping. We were on the hunt for a perfect Disney Christmas tree ornament for each of us (Mom managed to find the last Tinkerbell, while I went for a set of Mickey & Minnie with bells). Then we spent way too much time in the Basin but loved trying everything out, and splurged on a six-tube set of scented bath salts, and I finally scored several bars of glycerin soaps, something I’d regretted not buying on my first trip. Finally, we took advantage of a sale on Disney t-shirts and got a couple each.

    At one point we came across a live orchestra playing Christmas carols, which was nice.
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    Then we spotted this amazing Lego sculpture out in the lake. Yes, that's made out of real regular-sized Lego blocks!
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    We were just wrapping up when the Kelly’s called to say they’d arrived, so we agreed to meet up in front of the Coca Cola shop (easy to find). We found one another relatively easily and shared some big hugs (last time I’d seen them, I’d just turned 16 and now I was 51!). They looked amazing!

    Since it was already 3:30 pm and we had a 3:50 pm dinner reservation @ Chef Art Smith's Homecomin (the most difficult reservation of the entire trip!), we headed straight for the restaurant. We shared appetizers of Church Lady Deviled Eggs and Bee Haven Bay Fried Green Tomatoes (hold the ham for Mom), and then between the four of us we ordered the Harvest Salad (Larry), the Fried Catfish (Accompanied by hushpuppies, grits, and a side of remoulade)(Karen), and Fried Chicken & Doughnuts (Two pieces of Chef Art Smith's famous fried chicken served with house-made sugar doughnuts and creamy mashed potatoes)(Mom and Me). It was totally worth the effort of getting that reservation—the food was excellent! I regret not taking pictures! We all had a good laugh at one point when Mom didn’t realize that the brown stuff in the little cup was maple syrup for the chicken and she poured it over her mashed potatoes.

    We were way too stuffed to consider dessert, so we eventually headed back outside to wander through DS and explore all the different shops. We wanted to find a nice place to sit for drinks and maybe enjoy some live music, but they weren’t as enamored of The Edison as I was (I took a quick video but we moved one—but I definitely plan to spend time there on my next trip!).


    We moved on to Raglan Road Irish Pub, which they were definitely more keen on, but was packed solid, so we kept walking. Eventually we passed Dockside Margaritas, which is always a good bet for great live music, and I was right. We managed to find four seats together and settled in, ordered some drinks, and spend the rest of the evening talking, laughing, and enjoying a perfect sunset.


    After all the stress of the first day of our trip, this seemed to make up for everything and I was go glad our plans fell together and that we were able to see one another again. It was bittersweet that my Dad wasn’t able to be with us, but we talked about him and had a lovely time. When it was time to wrap things up, the Kelly’s were kind enough to offer us a ride back to our hotel so we could have an extended goodbye before saying goodnight.
     

    useakiss

    Am I there yet?
    Joined
    Jan 11, 2017
    Monday, December 3rd

    It was a sad day. We had spent some time the night before packing most of our things so that we didn’t need to panic in the morning, but could take our time and be prepared. Mom’s flight was first, around Noon, while mine was about 2 hours later. I’d heard horror stories about the security lines at mid-day at the Orlando airport, and so I wanted us heading out the door no later than 9 am.

    We had a lot of bottled water left over (I’d ordered in via Amazon Prime to save money, but it obviously wasn’t as hot as I’d anticipated so staying hydrated hadn’t been a concern); as we were walking out of our room, I spotted a family obviously here for the Disney parks and asked them if they’d like the water. They were grateful and took the package back to their room.

    We went down to the lobby and I checked out (after double-checking the receipt). We went outside and I was about to summon a Lyft when the bellboy tried to get me into a limo. He swore it was a great deal and equal to the price of a regular Lyft. Rather than just take him at his work and hop in, I asked the driver, who was standing there, exactly how much it would cost. He quoted me triple what the ride from the airport to the hotel had cost! I shot the bellboy a dirty look and told them both that I’d be arranging my own right, thank you very much. I don’t appreciate being lied by someone trying to take advantage of me. Honestly, it sort of summed my up entire experience with Wyndham itself—a lot of obfuscation and gouging.

    About the only thing that made me smile about the entire lodging experience was finding this big poster in the main lobby. Because yeah, Tormund Giantsbane is their spokesman!
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    Our Lyft ride to the airport went well, without incident, and we arrived with enough time to spare that we found a bench to sit down and have one last long talk before it was time to say goodbye. Because she wasn’t familiar with the airport, I was a bit concerned with Mom’s confusion on where she was supposed to go after she went through Security, but she made it okay.

    When it was finally my time to go through Security a couple hours later, the lines had really started backing up into a massive cattle call nightmare. What shocked me most, though, was how little seemed to be done this round. We weren’t asked to remove our shoes, or take out anything from our bags. They just walked a dog past, and then ran us through a simple metal detector. It was so rushed that I was disturbed by how rushed it was.

    The flight home was uneventful and I was very happy to be home, even though I was sad that my trip with Mom seemed to fly by and was over too soon.

    I’m so happy I’d planned this trip, and that Mom had as much fun as I did with her. I’m glad we planned shorter days (or at least tried to), and that our plans were so flexible that we were able to recover for the near-disaster on that first night. Much as I tried, the stress and trauma from that event probably tainted my own experience a bit (which might be why I didn’t get as many photos), but I really did my best to keep things upbeat and positive. We shared a lot of laughs and had some good talks, which is invaluable, and I hope I captured some of that in this blog.
     

    missangelalexis

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 27, 2012
    Sounds like a great time in Disney Springs, especially when it's time spent with friends!

    Departure days are always so sad! But it sounds like you had a really great trip with your mom, despite the rocky start at first!
     

    valleygirl

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 23, 2005
    I'm so glad you finished your report, I really enjoyed reading it. I'll be following along as you plan your next trip.
     

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