Another trip completed! This one was, if I had to put it into two words, exhaustively awesome. We got so much done in the amount of time that we were there, and were very pleased with how things went.
Now, that doesn't mean that things went perfectly. We had a few hiccups here and there, but we got over it and learned to appreciate the good parts of the trip.
If you want to hear about our preparations, you can read my TouringPlans.com series here, here, and here.
Our trip began on Tuesday, May 31. My parents flew in from Michigan, and I flew in from Colorado. I arrived about 45 minutes before they did (and my Southwest flight arrived early!), and I immediately headed for the rental car area. I know from experience that many travelers to the Orlando area like to rent a car, and whenever a new flight lands, many of those people go to the rental car counters. I wanted to get there ahead of them!
Luckily, at the National car rental area, there was only one other family at the counter, and two people ready to help. It was the shortest amount of time I'd ever spent at a rental car counter (mostly because I'd already reserved the vehicle), and I was out of there in about five minutes. I chose not to do the extra insurance, but did make the mistake of agreeing to the gas. I could have easily filled up for much less than I paid at the counter; however, it did give me one less thing about which to worry.
I returned to the luggage claim area and got my suitcase with no issues. If you are aware of Orlando's airport, they have a fountain right outside the security check area, as well as a few shops, with hotel rooms surrounding it. I went up to the fountain area to wait for my parents, because I'm always in too much of a hurry to enjoy that beautiful fountain!
We decided on a black Toyota Camry, which, to my delight, had Bluetooth capabilities. I hooked up my iPhone and we were on our way!
It was about 4:30, and we had a 6:15 dinner reservation at Pioneer Hall in the Fort Wilderness resort area. We decided to bypass checking in at the Art of Animation resort and head straight for Fort Wilderness. Dad used his Google Maps app and led us right into Walt Disney World via the toll road (we had cash). You always know when you enter Disney property because all the signs change from green to purple, and have Mickey ears on top. I get very excited when I see that!
They had two entrances, and I made the mistake of choosing the entrance on the right side, which could only be opened via MagicBand. I thought that the "Check-In" lane only applied to Fort Wilderness resort check-in, but it meant all check-ins. So we had to wait a second for the guy at the gate to open it up for us. Oops.
We took a resort bus to the back of the property, where Pioneer Hall is located. This area also looked familiar, because this is where my family went to take the ferry over to the Magic Kingdom on our first day back in 2000! (That was the day my sister ran into a post, and we also coined the drawling phrase "HOOP-dee-DOO MUsiCAL reVIEW" from our bus driver, which we haven't stopped saying since!)
Ours was the second show of the night, and it was amazing to think of the quick turnaround that had to be done to clear out the first show and set up for the second! We stood in a pretty long line outside to get to our table, but we already had our location picked out for us, so that wasn't a big deal.
What was a big deal was where our table was: front and center! There was a row of tables that were lined up right against the stage, an aisle, and then our table! Considering how many tables they had to shove in that room, plus the tables on the balcony, it was amazing to snag such a prime location!
In no time the six members of the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review burst in through the front doors and started singing and dancing. They did two songs before our ribs and fried chicken were served to each table, complete with mashed potatoes, corn, and baked beans. My parents had just had ribs the night before, but enjoyed the ones here, too. I loved the fried chicken - it was exactly what I had been craving!
Several of the songs were done on the floor, including a song about where people were from. They had a rhyme for every single state! We had a large group of people in the audience who were from Louisiana and several other southern states. They also celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, but my parents didn't have their anniversary buttons yet, so they chose not to be recognized at this time.
Eventually the Review came to a close, and we got on an internal bus to take us back to our car. The rain had been falling (and I'd heard a few thunderclaps from inside the building) so things like the marshmallow roasing with Chip and Dale got canceled. And the rain started up again soon after we exited Fort Wilderness and headed to the nearest Publix.
I got prime parking, which was good, and we headed inside to buy things like bananas, donuts, Diet Coke, and Gatorade. We passed by a large display of ponchos, and I finally convinced my parents to purchase one for each of them (I already had mine in my suitcase).
Finally, it was time to head to Disney's Art of Animation resort, where we were staying for the first five nights of our trip. We'd checked in online, so we just had to go to the front desk to find out our room number and get a map of the resort. Art of Animation is known for its family suites, but we were staying in the one section that didn't have family suites - just normal hotel rooms. That area - The Little Mermaid area - was way in the back of the resort! It was still raining, so we quickly brought up our luggage and made ourselves at home in the relatively tiny room. (Lucky for us, our hotel rooms would only get bigger during the trip!)
(Where did we go? Well, which park lets you tour 11 countries? Read about Day 1 HERE!)