Sunday, February 25, 2018

Epic vacation!

The reason it's been so long is because we spent the first 2 weeks of February on vacation in Florida and Bahamas. And the last couple weeks have just been way too busy. Just before we went on vacation I realized I forgot to pay our payroll taxes the month before. It's on my calendar monthly, and I checked it off as "done" even though I didn't actually do it! That was one of many clues that working 3 jobs plus homeschooling plus running the house is not sustainable. We'd like to hire a medical assistant for Mike, but that's not in our budget right now, so we hired a personal assistant for me instead. She starts on Thursday.

Now back to the vacation. We'd been planning it for a couple of years actually, ever since Mike bought a cruise from a telemarketer. Yeah, we had plenty of doubts about the purchase, but it all turned out to be legit and we had the most amazing vacation. The package that Mike bought was for 2 nights in Orlando, then a "cruise" to Bahamas, then 2 nights on Grand Bahama island, "cruise" back to Palm Beach, then 2 nights in Ft. Lauderdale. I say "cruise" in quotes because it's not very far to the island, so we were on the boat only about 18 hours each way. But on the other hand it was a real cruise ship with wonderful buffet, 3 pools, all kinds of nightlife entertainment going on, so it was a real cruise, just very very short.

We decided that 2 nights in Orlando was not going to be enough, for 2 reasons. One of the nights would be our first night there after spending a whole travel day getting there from Oregon. And, as part of the package Mike agreed to go to a timeshare presentation, so that would be day 2. Effectively the entire part of the Orlando package. So we added on 5 more days on our own.

We did one day at Animal Kingdom and the other 4 days at Magic Kingdom. I bought 4-day passes from a discounter (that I found out about from a trusted source), and they upgraded me to 5-day passes at no extra charge. At Disneyworld you have to load your Fast Passes in advance, and you get 3 per day. Ok, you don't HAVE to, and technically you can add more after you have used up your 3. But let's face it, it's the real world, so yes you have to and yes you effectively only get 3 if you don't get to the park at 7am, which I do not.

The parks were crowded. 4-hour wait times for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. That kind of thing. So we basically ended up only doing our 3 FPs each day and that was about it. It was a very luxurious way to travel, or very wasteful, I don't know how you want to look at it. It was certainly expensive even with the 5th day free, but would have been more stressful if we had to wait in lines forever to try to fit everything into one or two days. I liked it and I would do it that way again. At first I didn't exactly like having to reserve our FPs so far in advance, but it worked out great.

Our first full day in Orlando, we went to Animal Kingdom. Our first FP was for Kilimanjaro Safaris. As far as I'm concerned that is the only reason to go to Animal Kingdom. I think our reservation was around 1:30pm. After we got off the safari it was raining pretty hard and the kids wanted to leave. So we did. One whole Disneyworld pass just for Kilimanjaro Safaris. Worth it! The animals are so close you can almost reach out and touch them. I mean look how close we were to the giraffes. And it's not like 2-3 giraffes like we have at Oregon Zoo. They have like 15 giraffes.

We went into Celebration for late lunch or early dinner. It is still really nice there.

On our 2nd day we attended the timeshare presentation by Wyndham. Our sales rep was (unintentionally) hilarious! They tell you it's going to be about 2 hours. You go to a Wyndham facility and they show you a video and then walk you around one of their apartments. I imagine that takes 2 hours or less if you have bad credit. See, they ask you about your income and they run your credit score at the start of the presentation. So I imagine then if it's obvious you can't afford a timeshare, they don't give you a hard time about leaving. But if you have good credit and appear to have the means, they bring in the "closer".  That's what happened to us. I loved her. She was a scream. Our original sales rep was a sort of meek guy named Daniel but then he got shoved out of the way by the closer-lady who was about 50-something and dressed like Joan Holloway from Mad Men (and did it well) and spoke with a sort of European accent and said things like "BRAVO, HONEY" every time I asked a question. She wore a tiara. And she was the queen of high pressure sales. I laughed right at her, I thought she was so entertaining. Truthfully the Wyndham resorts look really nice. And they don't make you buy in perpetuity, which is everyone's nightmare, so they got rid of that. And the monthly "maintenance" fees are pretty low. And the points never expire and they can be used for airfare and other stuff that's not related to the resort properties themselves. But we still said no, we can't afford to finance such a purchase. No, no, no, we want to go to Magic Kingdom now. Joan pursed her lips at me. She didn't like it but she had to take no for an answer. If you are ever stuck in this type of situation you can just make it easy on yourself by telling them that your income is really low. After we got back Mike found where you can buy the same packages that Wyndham was trying to sell us, but for much less. Like I said, we did really like it, but if we ever go for it we will probably buy it that way, from another seller.

Anyway, day 2, we made it to the Magic Kingdom, and our FP that day was for something called Enchanted Tales with Belle. I didn't know what it was except that you got to meet Belle. Libby and Mae really wanted to meet princesses. It was a big deal for them. So Enchanted Tales with Belle turns out to be a thing where you meet Belle but sort of put on a little play for her at the same time. The play is re-enacting the story of Beauty and the Beast. And my kids got cast in leading roles, with Libby cast as Maurice (Belle's father) and Mae was cast as the Beast! IT WAS THE CUTEST THING EVER! Both kids said later that they were "embarrassed" and didn't want to be Maurice or the Beast but you would never guess that from the way they played their roles. And I got the whole thing on video. Which I will have to post later but here is a screenshot  photo from the professional photographer, with Libby, Belle, and Mae all on stage together. Libby is Maurice in the dungeon, and Mae has just startled Belle by "roaring" at her. It was so funny!

I think it was after we got to meet Belle that we had a FP for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is the most popular ride in the park. This was so epic, because we didn't have to wait in the hours-long line, we got to ride it at night (fun!), and the fireworks were going off overhead during our ride (amazing)! All 4 of us loved this ride and the whole experience. After we exited the Mine Train we stayed behind the castle to watch the rest of the fireworks. Mike said now that we've seen the fireworks from behind the castle we don't have to make plans to watch them again. But I knew better...I mean it was a big fat clue that there was only us and like 5 other people behind the castle. The whole entire rest of the park was in front of the castle. Well, unless they were in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. But I will have to write about that later. Will also post photos on the photo blog as soon as I can!

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