In the Parks

August Trip Report

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Last week I touched on my most recent trip when I discussed the success of the Touring Plans team’s successful Meet Week.  While these meets made up a big part of my August trip, there is a lot more to tell you about!  Our group varied in size from time to time but on average I was walking around the parks with about 20 people all of the time.  It is amazing to me how my group of Disney geek friends has grown to this size!  Since I did a good deal of the planning for our crew I was a little nervous about how it would all go, but I can’t put into words how wonderful the trip turned out to be.  Trying to explain the relationship I have with these people would be next to impossible so I will just say these are some of my best friends and I miss them terribly when we are not together.  Thanks, you guys, for an amazing few days in our favorite place.

After arriving and checking in at Pop Century, my friends and I decided to head to Epcot for the afternoon.  The first order of business was to grab some lunch at the Rose and Crown pub where a small food selection is available from the bar.  We hit a few attractions including a giggle fest during the newly reopened Captain EO.  A few drinks were enjoyed around World Showcase with plenty of time spent in my favorite watering hole La Cava del Tequila.  Soon it was time to head over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to host our first meet!  We had a great turn out and I got meet a lot of Touring Plans fans.  After the meet, we hit a few other attractions, grabbed some dinner, and hoofed it back to Epcot to catch Illuminations from Canada.  The crew headed over to the Boardwalk Inn to have some drinks at the Bellevue Lounge before calling a night after a long, fun filled day.

The following day we got up bright and early and headed to Typhoon Lagoon (TL) and took advantage of their morning extra magic hour.  A few of us decided to rent one of the cabanas Disney has set up around the water park for guests.  I will write more about the cabana experience in a future post.  Since we got there early, we headed right for the slides to get them done before the crowds got heavy.  Our method worked out really well and we hardly waited at all to zoom down slides like Crush’n’Gusher.  We took the rest of our time at TL to relax at our cabana, swim in the wave pool, and do laps around the lazy river.  And to top it off we made it back to our car right before a big storm!  I would definitely return to Typhoon Lagoon again with a fun group.

We all decided to head back to our rooms, clean up, and maybe grab a nap since we planned to be at the Magic Kingdom until 2 a.m.  After a well deserved break we all met back up again at the Wilderness Lodge to have dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe.  Can you believe 28 people joined us for a really fun meal!?  We took up three large tables and while I can’t speak for the other tables, the one I sat at had an awesome time.  Great friends sharing a meal and goofing off with our server doesn’t get much better.  After dinner, everyone headed to the Magic Kingdom for the next Touring Plans meet event.  We had a lot of people join us for Main Street Electrical Parade and popcorn.  Everyone stuck around to take in the Summer Nightastic fireworks and a big group of us hit Pirates of the Caribbean too.  The group decided to head out of the park to the Polynesian’s lounge for a drink and a break.  While we were at dinner we jokingly invited our server at Whispering Canyon Cafe to have a drink at the Poly with us and to our surprise he was there when we arrived!  After some drinks and laughs we all piled back onto the monorail to go back to the Magic Kingdom to take advantage of extra magic hours.  We hit a few attractions and shut down the park at 2 a.m.

On Saturday everyone wanted to sleep in a little after being at Magic Kingdom so late.  After a leisurely morning we headed to Epcot for the day.  We did the old run for fastpasses for Soarin’ and grabbed some coffee at Sunshine Seasons before meeting up with the big group at Epcot’s newest restaurant Via Napoli.  I’ll be writing about Via Napoli next week so I won’t go into too much detail now.  By the time we were finished with lunch it was time for the Touring Plans team’s next meet!  We met with readers at the Germany pavilion in World Showcase and treated everyone to pretzels.  When the meet was over my buddies and I sought air conditioning so we went to the Mexico pavilion for some drinks and a spin on Grand Fiesta Tour.  Some of our group split off to attend the Last Tour to Endor event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at that point.  The rest of us did a bit of touring around Epcot for the rest of the day, grabbed a quick dinner, and discovered a new favorite spot to watch Illuminations.  After heading out of the International Gateway after the show, we went to Beaches & Cream to find an hour and a half wait.  Some people grabbed ice cream from the take away window and we all hung out for a while.  Later, small group of us decided to check out Jellyrolls since we were in the neighborhood.  I really liked the venue and I look forward to returning again, but we’ll have to get their earlier next time to grab a table.

Sunday was our last full day and some of us had what we thought was a great plan.  A group met for rope drop at DHS with the intention of running in, getting fastpasses for Toy Story Mania and then high tailing it out of the park.  Well, the park was packed that morning.  The queue to get through the security check and then the turnstiles was nuts.  We got ourselves over to Pixar Place, but the line to get fastpasses was well over an hour and we didn’t have that kind of time since we had a breakfast ADR to get to.  We bailed on the Toy Story plan, went over to Rockin’ Rollercoaster and waiting in the single rider line before heading out of the park instead.  We arrived a few minutes late to our reservation for 22 people at Chef Mickey’s, but our friends were waiting patiently for us.  Chef Mickey’s was a lot of fun!  I wasn’t sure I would like it since I generally avoid characters, but it was a ball.  Although I’m pretty sure I’d have a great time with this group just about anywhere.

After breakfast we headed to the Animal Kingdom (AK).  Something I should point out before we get too far into telling you about this day’s activities was the heat index for that day was 113 degrees!  Unfortunately, almost immediately after our arrival at AK one of our crew needed some medical attention due to the heat.  We all did our best to keep hydrated, but in 113 degrees it’s not easy.  Erin fell victim to the heat and wound up in the park’s first aid office after trying to make it back to our resort.  Although the nurse was not thrilled that so many of her friends came to check on her, she was very helpful and after a good nap in the air conditioning Erin was feeling well enough to leave the office.  During her trip to first aid, the Touring Plans team held our final meet for the weekend at the Dawa Bar in Africa.  After everyone hung out for a while we walked over to Kilimanjaro Safari’s and had enough people to fill a jeep!

When we were finished with our safari we all decided we had had enough of the heat and wanted to go back to one of our resorts for a swim and a break.  We decided to go back to Pop Century so our sick friend could nap in her own bed while who ever wanted to could go for a dip in the Hippy Dippy Pool.  I retrieved our sick girl from first aid and promised to take good care of her.  While she rested in our room, most of us met up by the pool bar at Pop to have a few drinks, relax, and go for a swim.  I thought the pool would be refreshing and relaxing, but it was so hot out that the water was too warm to cool anyone down!  Despite the warm water we got a much needed break and it was really nice to slow down.  In fact, we were supposed to head back to the Studios for an ADR at the 50s Primetime Cafe, but everyone was so happy relaxing we blew it off.  We grabbed dinner at Everything Pop! the quick service eatery at the resort instead.

Everyone was pretty exhausted from days of nonstop fun so we decided to take it easy for the rest of the night especially since Erin wasn’t 100%.  Someone had the idea to head to the Polynesian and watch Wishes from the beach.  I had never done this before so I was all for a slow paced evening on the beach.  We arrived early and enjoyed some drinks by the pool before claiming a spot on the beach before the fireworks started.  This evening was what this trip was really all about.  Spending time with amazing friends; we didn’t need to be running around a park to have a good time, we just needed each others’ company.  Since it was our last night and Wishes is so awesome a few tears were shed during the fireworks display.  I don’t think any of us wanted that night to end.

But, unfortunately, it did and on Monday we all got up, moped around our resort rooms as we packed up our suitcases, and got ourselves set up for our various departure times.  My friend, Doug, had a great idea to have our last meal together at O’hana’s character breakfast.  I had only been to O’hana for dinner so I wasn’t sure what I was in for.  Food is served family style and our group of 11 had a great time.  The character interaction here was a hoot and the food was tasty;  I’m sure I’ll write more about it later.  A good bunch of our group had to head to the airport or up the highway after breakfast was finished.  After many hugs and many tears it was time to say “see ya real soon” to some of our fellow travelers.

Despite being sad at the departure of many of my buddies, several of us were set out to enjoy the rest of the day at the Magic Kingdom.  Something pretty awesome happened once we went through the gate and I just have to tell you all about it.   If you’ve been following along on my adventures you’ll remember I brought one of my friends from home on this trip.  She started the trip as a Disney World newbie and ended it as an annual pass holder!  When we arrived at the Magic Kingdom we went straight to City Hall to upgrade her five day pass to an annual pass!  The cast members who helped us couldn’t have been better and even hammed it up when we took pictures of Erin getting her AP to send to the departed crew.  We had such a good time with the CM behind the desk at guest relations that when we were finished with Erin’s transaction she leaned over to us and said “how would you guys like some fastpasses for being awesome?”  Of course we would!

We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to accomplish as many of the Magic Kingdom attractions as we could.  We brought our newbie on some of the classics and told her we were educating her and grooming her to be a true WDW geek since she now had an annual pass.  We got caught in a rain storm so we dropped into the Hall of Presidents.  I wasn’t sure Erin would like it since I was sure she would much rather do a ride, but she wound up crying at the end just like I always do!  I knew I brought that girl for a reason.  Not only did we do some of the classic attractions, but we got our newbie her very first Dole Whip.  Now she has even more incentive to come back and use her annual pass!  After our time in the Magic Kingdom it was time for another group of us, including Erin and I, to head to the airport.  After another tearful goodbye we were on our way to MCO to head back to New Jersey after five incredible days at Walt Disney World.

I would not have traded these five days for anything.  I met a lot of great people who I know will be lifelong friends, got to chat with readers who I look forward to seeing again, and had a wonderful time with old friends.  One of my crew of 20ish said it well when he said trips to WDW used to be about the attractions, but now they are about the interactions.  He was right. I focus much more on hanging out with my friends these days than trying to get a lot of attractions accomplished.  Splash Mountain will still be there the next time I go down to Florida, spending time with people from all over the country is much more important.  I couldn’t do it justice if I tried to explain what these relationships mean to me.  As Walt Disney said “it all started with a mouse,” but now it is so much more.

Thank you for following along on my adventures!  I will be back in Disney World in October and look forward to sharing that trip with the Touring Plans readers as well!

Next week I’ll review Epcot’s newest addition Via Napoli…

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Kristen Helmstetter

Kristen Helmstetter is an Unofficial Guide researcher who will share her 20-something perspective of all things Walt Disney World with blog readers. Kristen’s email address is You can also follow her on Twitter: @khelmstetter.

13 thoughts on “August Trip Report

  • Amy from KC

    Great report Kristen! Are you glad you got a rental car? I can’t wait to read about Via Napoli. I made an ADR there for Lunch in Dec.

  • Thanks Amy! I was glad to have the car. Especially for going to meals at resorts rather than in the parks and going to Typhoon Lagoon. We left it at the resort a few times, but we made good use of it too. I’m sure you will enjoy your ADR in December, but stay tuned next week to find out more about Via Napoli!

  • What was your new favorite spot to watch Illuminations?

    • hmmm I’m not sure I want to give away my secret 🙂 There is a porch that wraps around the upper level of the restaurants in the Japanese Pavilion. Its a pretty cool perspective from up there and a lot of photographers head there. I still have a few other spots I like, but this is definitely high on my list.

  • Kristen, How would you like a blog comment for being awesome? I had tears of joy in my eyes as I read your post and relived all the magical memories from this trip. I hung my head in shame about my stint in the Animal Kingdom first aid. I smiled as I saw all our pictures together. Then I started to tear up when I read about saying goodbyes. (It was like I was saying goodbye all over again!) My mouth started to water when I read about the Dole Whip by the way. I want some now. I am so glad I got the AP because I can’t wait for our next trip!

    • I’m glad you liked it! There is nothing to be ashamed of in needing a little time in first aid. It happens. Just be relieved that it will be cooler in December.

  • Elisabeth

    Kristen, you stated everything perfectly! This group of people has become so special to me that our trips together are now like family reunions. You got me all misty-eyed!

    • Thanks, Elisabeth! It still amazes me how much you all mean to me. I can’t wait for the next “family reunion!”

  • WDWStevieB

    Kristen- You really captured the essence of this trip. It was great reliving the moments as I read your words and saw the pictures. Can’t wait to read about and take part in another adventure with this family again.

    I really hope it shows others that whether you are family or friends… You can find so many amazing relationships around the magic of Disney.

    • Thanks, Steve! I’m glad you liked the post. I’m so glad your first experience with our crazy bunch was a good one.

  • Caroline Baggerly

    Excellent. You captured the spirit of the trip. I had no idea I would make friends with people I met on Twitter and have so much fun with them. Thank you for including me in the activities. It was a blast being part of the Touringplans team passing out swag and popcorn. I can not wait for the Oct trip!! To you and all of my Disney Friends — Thanks for the memories!! Caroline

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