August 30th, 2014

August at the Mouse: a _quick_ trip

I swore up and down I would never go to Florida in August. Ha! That lasted a few years.

I screwed up and failed to bank some points earlier this year and then realized that it was really also too late and they were too few to bother attempting to rent. I then contemplated them for a while and had an Evil Thought: what if we went down just for a couple nights? I'd have to use some other points, and obvs there would be plane fare (and, to be honest, one of the bigger costs on these trips is A. deciding whenever she gets off a ride in a shop that she Wants Something, usually Several Somethings. It is so bad that I have a new thing to say to her when she asks for something: We already have two of those. That's usually when it is a very cool toy that both kids wanted.).

Note to self: if you aren't going to do MemoryMaker (why aren't you doing MemoryMaker?), then _at least_ remember to sign up for the all you can eat Attractions thing.

I thought we could do this because we had been doing 3 day trips up to New Hampshire this summer and they had been going well. Both on those trips and on longer, recent trips to WDW, we had been going on rides on the day of arrival. I figured that a two night trip would get us three days in the park, if we rented a car and timed the flights correctly and generally experienced good luck. Which we did.

Here are some things that my paranoid self thought of in advance:

(1) What if our checked bags go missing? It can take 24-48 hours for a checked bag to resurface (if it is going to), which makes the tradeoff on checking a bag for a short trip real different from a longer trip. Ideally, one doesn't check bags on a short flight, but I have small children and wasn't sure that would work. Project A: figure out how to pack for carryon only with the kids.

(2) We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village. It was going to be that, OKW or Sarasota, and the animals were sort of a draw. All the reviews suggested Rent a Car if staying at AKL, which I was fine with doing, but I wanted to streamline the process. Project B: sign up with National's Emerald Club so we could go straight to the aisle.

(3) There are Tolls. Tolls require cash, sometimes exact change. Alternatives include pay by plate or getting a transponder from the rental agency. Project C: get my own damn SunPass transponder. Both of R.'s parents live in Florida, and we are starting to visit at least one of them irregularly on our trips down.

(4) Will I survive the heat? What if there is a Hurricane? Project D: get UV protective gear and pay attention to the weather forecast for 2 weeks in advance.

Project A: carry on only with kids

Because the trip was short, and because the weather on both ends was hot, we didn't have a lot of clothing volume to deal with. Pulling this off during the winter would be pretty amazing and I doubt I could do it or that it would be worth it; it's easy enough to wear the winter gear, take it off in the airport, shove it in a duffle, check the duffle and then let Disney's Magic take care of making sure it showed up in the hotel room. TSA's liquid/gel limits are the major problem, especially since one of the kids still doesn't swallow pills yet, and the other is pretty unreliable. Also, I really prefer to cut doses of OTC meds, and liquid makes that easy. Can you bring liquids through security? Sure! But I'd prefer to keep things streamlined. I scoured the shelves at CVS and elsewhere to replace everything I could with low-dose chewables. The only failure was imodium, which I decanted into a small enough container to legitimately go in the quart size zippy bag. Success! Because I got a small sunblock, I could carry it in my purse in the parks, which was convenient. I brought the Zuca, in case A. needed a ride, and put my under-seat bag on top of it, and A.'s Hello Kitty case for toys on top of that. I wore my Disney backpack. T. wore his backpack and his "belly pocket" for his phone. R. used the Samsonite rollaboard that we used to use when T. was small to attach a car seat to. The Zuca and the Samsonite went up; everything else went under the seats so most of our stuff was accessible. No laptops or camera bag this trip -- just iPads and iphones and kindles. Worked great. Lovely to not have to stop at baggage claim. I will do this again. As R. said, Carry On with Kids Achievement Earned!

Project B: The first car we tried in the aisle at National had a dead battery, which was a bummer because A. really wanted that. The second one had been smoked it. We wound up with a Nissan Cube, which I liked, but A. hated and it's hard to drive smoothly. Returning it was easy. We didn't have our Magic Bands out on arrival at the Magic Kingdom, but the lady at parking let us through anyway because the Mouse is all about the Magic.

Project C: I got the SunPass transponder. I remembered to input the rental car in my account before driving out of the airport garage. I set a time limit (convenient, SunPass! You are fabulous!) on the plate. The electronic signs indicate I was successful. I remembered to _bring the transponder_! I remembered to _retrieve the transponder_! Success! I'm sort of amazed this worked, actually. There are so many ways to screw it up I am not sure I recommend doing this.

Project D: the only relevant storm never hit the US, just stayed in the Bahamas wrecking a friends' vacation (actually, they switched islands so mostly an inconvenience for them). I failed to melt in the heat. No one was badly burned, altho we came back with a bit more tan than I had anticipated. I did not have any heat related meltdown (food turned out to be more of an issue, and R. helped me manage it when it got bad). This is the _only_ time in my entire life I have wished an outdoor pool was cooler than it was. To be fair, it was not that humid (60%-70% most of the time) or that hot (I don't think it got above 95 the entire time -- I really cannot tolerate above 100).

Ride and restaurant related reviews in a later post. We had a really good time, and while I won't do something this short again very soon, I would seriously consider a Labor Day weekend at the Mouse, now that I fully understand just how low the crowd levels are.

ETA: Oops, forgot: we got Seventh Generation powder packets for laundry detergent, so we could bring scent-free laundry stuff with us. It works great!

August at the Mouse: Yak and Yeti, AKL Kidani

We only had one sit-down meal on this trip, but given we were only there for 3 days/2 nights, honestly, that was more than enough. We had a great meal, separately, at Yak and Yeti probably in November 2011, and have been wanting to get back there ever since. R. had since eaten at the quick service part of it. I figured we'd just want to sleep after we were done at the pool at the end of each day, so I didn't attempt an evening meal, just one lunch, on the theory that we'd be indoors and air-conditioned, and that part worked out great.

The food -- as we both recalled -- is good, but would be better if it wasn't quite so salty (we think just a little too much soy sauce, but aren't sure). He had the crispy salmon; I got the chicken lo mein, since I'm pretty sure that's what I enjoyed last time and it's a pretty atypical thing for me to eat.

I got one kids meal because the kids insisted they weren't going to eat. They complained nonstop. T. didn't want to be there at all, and A. hated the smell (she doesn't like smelling anything in the onion family, or brassica either, for that matter). This did not stop them from plowing through most of the kids' meal between the two of them, nor did it in any way inhibit them from eating a ton of fortune cookies. I bribed them with cokes and the promise of an ice cream sundae. I probably will not try to go back with them until A. is over the smell thing (or until I can legitimately let her go do her own thing while I have a nice lunch, whichever comes first). It's still a really great little place to quiet down, cool down and enjoy a good meal with a drink.

We have only stayed at BLT until this trip. Animal Kingdom Lodge is pretty inconvenient as on property options go: bus or car, and distant from everything but Animal Kingdom (and that's not even all that close). Once you figure out how the elevators work (and where the back entry to Samawati Springs Pool is), it's pretty awesome, altho it might make sense to ask for a room near the lobby if you can get it.

The animals are fabulous! You really do get to see giraffes and ankole cattle and elands and a bunch of other types of antelope and birds and all kinds of stuff from the windows. We had a standard view, but on all those walks to and from the lobby (we were down by the Pumbaa elevator), I never once failed to see something. It is indeed like living in the zoo; one wonders what the animals think of us humans. We didn't do the night vision goggle thing; maybe on a future trip.

The furniture is comfortable. The master bathroom is cavernous. Everything worked fine. And it is hella cheaper on points than most of the other DVC options, so think about it if you are trying to stretch your membership. The only restaurant (other than the pool side bar, Maji) on site is Sanaa, which is table service; I believe you can get room service options from them which would probably be worth trying (we didn't). Everything else is over at Jambo House which we never set foot in so I can't speak to that. The shopping options are limited but there are some groceries (including 4 adorable tiny gluten free, dairy free, vegan, kosher, etc. babycakes in a little plastic container), and obvs you can order in pizza or get a grocery order (we did).

_The Hot Zone_, Jayne Castle

This is a fictional entry in Castle/Krentz' long running Harmony series, the third in the Rainshow series within the Harmony series, and Harmony itself is part of the Arcane books. So, basically, don't start here.

What it has going for it: dust bunnies in Halloween costume, collecting hoards of candy and then sharing them with more dust bunnies.

What is unfortunately somewhat weak: the romance between and the characters of Cyrus Jones and Sedona Snow are not strong. And the many generations on connections between the Jones clan and the descendants of Arizona Snow are not enough to make it interesting.

On the other hand, I _did_ read this on vacation while I was so tired I couldn't sleep immediately (never a good thing!), so it's possible I would have had more positive feelings about it if I weren't quite so tired. If you're looking for a Castle/Krentz' novel set in the San Juans, you'd probably be better off with one of her earlier efforts, but if you really want the Harmony version of the San Juans with forays into the green (and this time, blue!) caverns left by the Aliens', well, enjoy!