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Friday, June 8, 2012

Orlando FL - March 2000 - Day 2

This is a re-print of an original post to the ThompsonFamilyWeb site about a trip my family and I took to Orlando in March of 2000. It is completely unaltered from my original post.

Introduction and planning
Cast of Characters
John (The author) - 42 - Disney park nut - 4th trip to WDW (5th sort of)
Andie (my wife) - 43 - Likes WDW but can take it or leave it, not crazy about theme parks - 4th trip to WDW
Norm (Grandpa, my dad) & Marge (Grandma, my mom) - 70's - Live near DL but WDW neophytes
Natalie - 6 - Roller Coaster nut - 3rd trip to WDW
Charlotte - 2 1/2 - 2nd trip to WDW
If you have read any of my reports from various excursions that we've made, you know that I can be a bit long-winded. This introductory bit doesn't get into the actual trip, and may be a bit dry unless you're in to this, so feel free to skip to Day One if you like.

This was our 3rd trip as a family to Walt Disney World (WDW). Andie & I had gone in March 1992, when we were engaged. That was my 1st trip and Andes 2nd (she had gone when she was a freshman in college). Our first trip as a family was over Thanksgiving 1997 in celebration of my 40th birthday. Nat and I returned in October 1998. My parents live a short drive from Disneyland (DL) and have been there many times (as have I); in fact they used to be Annual Passholders. They had never, however, been to WDW.

It was, in fact, my mom's desire to see WDW that was the impetus of this trip. Nat and I had just returned from our October 1998 trip and I was telling my mom about it and she mentioned (not for the 1st time) how much she wanted to go to WDW. Since we are now Disney's Vacation Club (DVC) members, we could reserve a 2-bedroom villa at Disney's Boardwalk Villas (BWV) that would be big enough for all of us. I suggested that we go sfover Thanksgiving of 1999. We liked Thanksgiving week because all the Christmas decorations are up, the weather isn't too hot, the parks are crowded but not as bad as other holidays, Nat would only miss a few days of school, and we would only miss a few days of work.

The original plan was for us to fly in on Friday night before Thanksgiving week, spend the first night at an Orlando Best Western, then spend 7 nights at BWV paying for 6 nights with points and one with cash. I purchased 5 day Park Hopper passes for all of us (except Charlotte who is under 3 and, therefore, can get into the parks for free) using my Magic Kingdom Club discount. We would go to the parks for 5 of our full days and take 2 days off (including Thanksgiving Day.)

A few months after making all the major plans (including airplane tickets and hotel reservations) I received a mailing from American Express offering 3 nights at the Marriott Grande Vista (one of Marriott Vacation Club's timeshare properties), plus 2 tickets for Universal Studios, for $249. All we would need to do was sit through a 90-minute sales presentation. This seemed like a really good deal, so after verifying that we could use the passes for Universal's Islands of Adventure (IOA) instead of Universal Studios, we decided to go for it. I reserved it for Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. We would get an extra day in Orlando (which we would use for IOA) without spending too more money. It would cost $450 ($75 per ticket) to change the plane tickets, plus we would pay $249 for the Marriott deal, but we would not be paying $79 for the Best Western room and would also be saving $380 for the one cash night at BWV. Additionally we would save some on the cost of the Airplane tickets, which we could take in coupons for future travel (as good as cash to us.)

As soon as I got my reservation confirmation from Marriott Vacation Club International (MVCI) I discovered that they had screwed up the reservation. I tried to get them to fix it, but they were nearly impossible to get in touch with. By the time I finally got through to them I was so frustrated that I cancelled it all together. Luckily I had not cancelled any of our original reservations, so we could easily go back to plan A.

The reservations were all made, the Priority Seating (PS) reservations for dining at WDW were all made, and all was ready to go. Then I got a call from my mom that my dad's doctor had informed him that he needed surgery. Needless to say, he would not be fully recovered in time for our trip, so we cancelled the whole trip and started from scratch.

Even though I had had trouble with MVCI, we decided to try to use the special deal again for our new itinerary. I called DVC first to make a 5-day reservation for a 2-bedroom villa. I had a little trouble finding dates with availability at BWV (there were more available at Old Key West, but we wanted to stay at BWV), but we finally settled on March 6th through 11th. I called MVCI and arranged for 3 nights, March 3rd through 6th. We were even able to upgrade to a 2 bedroom villa for an extra $50. We would still do 5 days at Disney parks and 1 day at IOA, but we would now have only 1 day off.

Changing the plane tickets turned out to be a bit more difficult. I had no problem finding a flight for my parents from Orange County, CA, but all flights from the New York area to Orlando were prohibitively expensive. I was able to find good flights to Tampa, however. It turned out that we would arrive in at Tampa almost the exact time that my parents would arrive in Orlando, so they would get to the room before us.

A really cool thing about this trip was that we would have no bills when it was over. The MGV room was paid for, the BWV room was on points, and the park passes were paid for long ago. The only major expense would be the rental car, which my parents agreed to pay for as we were taking care of the rooms. As for spending money, I had been selling a bunch of stuff on eBay and had amassed $1200, which would cover most of our day-to-day expenses. Andie and I agreed that we would attempt to charge as little as possible.

One more note about this trip. My mom had hurt her knee about a year ago and hasn't been able to walk long distances since. For that reason we decided that we would use a wheelchair for her on this trip.

Well, the day for departure was quickly approaching. Even Andie was getting excited. Every time Charlotte would see a commercial for WDW she'd say, "We go there?" My mom made the final arrangements for their transportation, and we were ready to go.

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