Merry Christmas Trip, Final Thoughts

It is done!  Our Merry Christmas Trip is but a memory…..

But what a memory it is!

The reason for this trip was to keep the holiday blues from invading our mind… and our hearts like it had done so many times in the past six or seven years.

We would love nothing more than to be with family over the holidays but my side lives several hours drive away and we’ve always made the drive. Our time with them is always special. 

After driving a couple of hours…. enjoying family until late evening and then having to drive a couple of more hours makes for a long and exhausting day.

The weather in upstate New York is unpreditable and really hard to plan for.

Patti’s son’s family lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  It is next to impossible to make the trip for the holidays. They have rarely been home for the holidays themselves with a lot of Shanda’s family living in Texas.

So for the past six or seven years we’ve been miserable during the holidays, wishing that Christmas didn’t exist… but not this year!

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This wasn’t a posed photo. She didn’t know about this picture until we got home. The smile on Patti’s face…. on Christmas morning…. as we road to the Magic Kingdom is all I needed to see that said she was having a magical time. And that smile was on her face all week! 

 

 

When I started thinking about doing this trip I had several extremely experienced Disney travelers and friends question my sanity.

One rolled her eyes and said…. “good luck with that”…. one just came out with…. “are you freaking crazy”…… and others just shook their head in laughter and said, “it’s one of the busiest times of the year there!”.  Another said, “You are going to be miserable in those crowds… you won’t be able to move!”

But here’s my take on Walt Disney World over the Christmas to New Year holiday period. I’ll break it down into the following categories.

  • Resort
  • Dining Reservation Availability
  • Food
  • Holiday Entertainment
  • Disney Holiday Food Price Increase
  • Fast Pass Availability
  • Crowd Level
  • Highway Congestion to and from
  • Disney is getting expensive

 

Resort….. The resort we stayed at, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is a gorgeous resort! We felt at home there from the first minute we drove through the gate. It was very well decorated for the holidays. And we were surrounded by blooming hibiscus flowers near our room! Lots of them!

The Cast Members were very attentive to our requests made during my “on line” check in. I had requested lower level, near transportation and we were granted our request by being put in the Cabanas section, building 9B, only about 200 steps or less from the bus stop! I had selected a Standard View King bed room (for price) but was given a Water View King Bed room.

We didn’t utilize the resort dining but one walk through the Pepper Market (food court) made it look very impressive. We did however have a great time at the outside bar one evening and met some new friends while enjoying some adult beverages.

Dining Reservation Availability…. we had absolutely NO problem getting reservations for what we wanted and where we liked to eat. I had only made one dining reservation about three weeks prior for Christmas day at Hollywood and Vine. We wanted to have our Christmas Dinner with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy. And we were pleasantly surprised to see Santa Goofy there as well.

And we also got a “walk in” reservation on Christmas Morning at the Crystal Palace to have breakfast with Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore!

I also kept checking for available reservations every day and we could have made dinner reservations at a lot of great restaurants if we were inclined to do so.

Food….. We found the food to be just okay at most places. The counter service food isn’t anything to write home about with a couple of exceptions. The turkey sandwich at Flametree BBQ was very good…. as was the food we had at the ESPN Club.  But it always has been so I expected that.

I’m pretty disappointed in the quick service food at the Magic Kingdom. I don’t care if it is an over priced hot dog or an over priced burger…. the lack of quality is pathetic! We have friends that swear by the Columbia Harbor House but in a couple of attempts, I thought the food was very poor there. And I still do not know why Disney ruined Pecos Bills with the menu change.

The breakfast at the Crystal Palace was outstanding! Everything was tasty and fresh but once again, way over priced. The character interaction was good with many pictures taken.

The dinner at Hollywood and Vine was just okay…… and not worth the money but the dining experience was great. The character interaction was very good.

Holiday Entertainment……  This was Disney at it best!  The entertainment in all the parks was extremely well done by every Cast Member in every park! After all…. it is Disney!!!!!!!!!

But I have to say…… the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom the night before New Years Eve was THE BEST WE’VE EVER SEEN!!!!!!! No other fireworks that I’ve seen in my 66 years on earth has even come close!

But all the shows at the Magic Kingdom, at Epcot, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and at Animal Kingdom were phenomenal with the exception of one…. the night-time Tree of Life Show!

I was very disappointed in that after all the hype. It was almost like it was thrown together because they needed something because of the failed Rivers of Light show that they are still trying to perfect.

Disney Holiday Food Price Increase….. isn’t it bad enough to pay a high price for food while at Walt Disney World during the rest of the year? A burger does not need to cost a couple of bucks more during the holiday. And I’m still shocked that was saw drunks at Epcot with the price s of drinks as high as they are.

Come on…. $7.00 for a Bud lite? And people are STILL getting drunk and being carried out of the park by friends? We saw it first hand on two occasions.

Everyone knows of my love for the fabulous treat called the Mickey Bar. It’s almost legendary. Did anyone…. and I mean anyone notice that I did not post one single Mickey Bar photo during the trip?

Mr. Disney raised the price to $5.00 and I did NOT have even one. Nope…. not a single Mickey Bar touched my lips. In fact…. when I said to Patti, “let’s stop at the outside bar tonight and enjoy some margaritas….. I’ll use my saved Mickey Bar dollars.”…. she just laughed and pointed out that I did eat ice cream, just not any Mickey Bars.

Fast Pass Availability……

I used the app every day to check for fast passes. you could get almost anything you wanted except for the coveted “Frozen ever After” fast pass. It was not available all week while we were there. My wife was disappointed. Sorry honey…. I’ll get them for you for our next trip in May, 2017.

Crowd Level during our stay……

Okay people….. here we go…. let’s pop the bubble right here and now!

I have always been told that Walt Disney World is way too crowded over the holidays to be able to enjoy a trip. To this I say…. no… nope… nada…nyet… Bull Crap!

While the parks did get crowded…. especially from 10:00am until around 4:00pm…. they were very manageable unless you had that one attraction you just had to do. We even were able to ride Soarin’ twice in one day! The new ride movie for Soarin’ is great!

The biggest crowds are always at the Magic Kingdom. And do not order lunch during prime time and expect to not fight for a table. It is the worst of the worst. We ate lunch while standing up at Cosmic Rays but we were lucky to get a standup table that day.

The crowds were relatively small when we arrived. After check in, we went to Christmas Eve Mass and then back to the resort for a change of cloths. we then hopped a bus for Animal Kingdom to activate our new Annual Passes. We also had a fast pass for the night-time safari. the crowd level was extremely low! We didn’t need a fast pass. Our truck even left the platform with empty seats!

The crowd did grow larger every day while we were there but it didn’t affect us in any way shape of form.  We had a couple of things we didn’t do because of the crowd level but we knew we would be returning again and would do them then.

We were able to position ourselves in our favorite location in the Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks on New Years Eve eve…… in spite of the biggest crowd we experienced during the whole trip. But a lot of people left the parks after the first fireworks and after the showing of Fantasy in the Sky, the park emptied very quickly. We just hung around and killed some time before leaving to an empty bus loading area for our resort.

Highway Travel to and from……

When we decided to take this trip we were also considering a Disney Cruise but airfare was so high with just three weeks left. We changed our focus to spending Christmas in the parks verses out to sea. I then suggested driving down for our first time and I’m so glad I did.

The estimated total cost to drive down and back, including two nights motels, food and gas only came to less than $380.00 and it was an enjoyable drive both ways. While traveling down had more traffic, driving home was the easiest it could have been.

We experienced great weather both directions and we know we were blessed. I’d rather be lucky than good.

Disney is getting expensive……

From $7.00 beers….. to $5.00 Mickey Bars…… Disney is getting real expensive!

But it is the only vacation you will take where you are surrounded by magic 24/7 during your trip. It’s actually entertaining even before your trip as you anticipate and plan your days. From making dining reservations 180 days prior….. to 60 day fast pass reservations….. every part of the planning process brings smiles to my face.

So if you factor in all the enjoyment…. you actually appreciate a Disney vacation more per dollar spent than you would a beach vacation…. or a ski vacation.

It is still the best entertainment bargain on the planet today!

We’ve got friends that bought season tickets for all three members of their family….. I’m not mentioning any names. They go to every one of their team’s home games… all ten of them and I bet they have paid more dollars to watch their team than we did for this whole trip.

Right now…. if you were to contact me and wanted to reserve the exact same Christmas vacation we had…. two adults…. the same resort…. arriving December 24th, departing the 31st…. with six day park hopper tickets…. it would cost you $ 3,339.31 .

Or stay at Disney’s All Star Music Resort with the same tickets for only $ 2,343.98.

A $200 deposit is all it takes to reserve. Contact me today.

You can modify or cancel without penalty by November 24, 2017.

Since we’ve been home several people have asked…. would you do it again?

Our answer is….  YES…. YES……YES…. and YES!

We are planning on celebrating Christmas 2017 at Walt Disney World if some things happen for us. Our projected dates are December 20th until the 27th.

My wife is still employed at a 9 – 5 job and the medical office where she works was purchased by a local hospital and her benefit package has changed slightly. And we expect the birth of another grandchild in New Mexico this July.

We already have Walt Disney World trips booked for May and October, 2017 so I’m not sure she will have vacation time to use.

I’ll leave you with a slide show of my favorite photos taken during the trip.

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Thank you for following along. Please feel free to leave me some feedback, good or bad.

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