In the Parks

October Trip Report

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Well, another great trip has come and gone and I’m taking to the Touring Plans blog to tell all of you about it.  It started off with an early flight from Newark to Orlando which went fairly smoothly.  I was a bit concerned because the Northeast was being hit with the leftovers of a tropical storm the morning I left, but we pulled out from the gate on time and had a minimally bumpy trip to Florida.  There was a lot of texting and tweeting going on between all of the folks who were flying out that morning about delays and turbulence so I was happy to be minimally affected by the weather.  Upon arriving at MCO I met up with my friend and roommate for this trip, Kim and we sleepily boarded Disney’s Magical Express to make our way to the Yacht Club.

Things got off to a bumpy start at the Yacht Club.  I’ll write about them in more detail when I write a post dedicated to my stay here, but I’ll leave with a teaser.  It took us far too long to check in and then there was a major issue with our room when we got to it.  The short (and more pleasant) version of the story was my friends and I got a free room upgrade to a water view from our concierge level room.  I’ve never sprung for a superior view at one of the Disney resorts since I spend so little time in the room so I’ve never experience this before.  The view was pretty fantastic with the lighthouse right outside our balcony and Boardwalk across the way.  Although I doubt I would spend the money for this kind of view again, having it was really lovely.  I also have to mention how wonderful it was to be within walking distance of Epcot’s International Gateway.  I’ve raved about this feature when staying at the Boardwalk before, but it is equally exciting from the Yacht Club.

We were busy from the get go on this trip!  Some friends headed to the Yacht Club to meet Kim and I for lunch at Beaches & Cream.  It was my first time there!  This eatery located in the Beach Club is famous for its ice cream, but since it was late in the afternoon and we wanted to try some food and wine festival offerings we just burgers and such and took off.  Our group split up shortly after lunch to hit up different Disney community activities in various places on property.  Some headed to Lou Mongello’s Food and Wine Walkabout in World Showcase while the rest of us went over to the Saratoga Springs Resort to visit the folks from the Be Our Guest Podcast in their treehouse villa.  I was in the group who headed to Saratoga and I’m really glad I went!  I got to meet some great folks and put some faces to twitter names.  It was also here where I got to see some old friends for the first time on this trip which is always wonderful.

Soon it was time to head off to meet up with my other roommate, Caroline, who had driven to WDW from Alabama and collect the rest of the group for dinner at Sanaa at the Kidani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  A group of about ten of us dined together and really enjoyed our meal at Sanaa.  Our server was a lot of fun and really made us feel at ease even though we were a big group complete with kids.  After a lovely dinner we visited the Kidani savannah before heading back over to Epcot to end our evening with Illuminations.  Our group really likes to take in the show from Japan so we headed there to enjoy it together.  Since many of us had been up since the wee hours to travel and several were running the 5k in the morning we decided to call it a night after Illuminations.

Photo provided by Steve Bassett

Saturday was a bit of a crazy day.  It started out with four of my friends running the Halloween 5k through the Magic Kingdom.  A few of us got ourselves out of bed to cheer for them as the crossed the finish line.  We were so proud of our runners!  After the race we headed to Lou Mongello’s meet of the month at the Boardwalk Bakery.  Once again I got to meet some new friends and reconnect with people I’ve known for years.  We shared some laughs and made plans for the rest of the weekend on a nice relaxed morning.  After the meet Kim, Caroline, and I took advantage of the pool called Stormalong Bay which is shared by the Yacht and Beach Club resorts.  Kim and I only got to enjoy it for a short time before heading over to the Magic Kingdom for lunch at the Plaza with some friends.  Caroline stayed behind to take it easy that day since she would be running a half marathon that evening.

Lunch at the Plaza was decent, but not anything amazing.  Our group manages to have fun no matter where we go though so we made the best of bad service and just ok food.  After lunch our bunch disbanded and most of us went back to our resorts to take a nap since we had gotten up early for the 5k and planned to stay up late for the half marathon.  Back in my room a got cozy and dozed off for a little while and woke up in time to see Caroline off before her big race.  Our crew regrouped at the Yacht Club so we could make signs to show support during the race and hang out for a little while before heading to Epcot.  We walked over to World Showcase to take in Illuminations again, this time from Canada.  We all had a “we love these people moment” when everyone of us was singing along to the show.  This is why I love the Disney community so much.

After Illuminations was over everyone had to exit the park even if they had tickets for the half marathon after party.  My friends and I headed back to my resort room to hang out for a little while between events.  The party started at 10 and around that time we made our back to Epcot.  The crowds were thick with half marathon supporters already!  We managed to hit up a few Food and Wine Festival booths before we met up with AJ from the famous Disney Food Blog and then find a spot to cheer for Caroline as she ran by us toward the finish.  The way the race was set up with kind of a pain especially if you had multiple runners to support.  Spectators had to go out of the park, find a spot to cheer, wait for their runner then make their way back into Epcot to try to find their runner.  We had two friends running who were about an hour and a half apart from each other in timing so we had to do this twice (the second one after 2 in the morning).  What a pain!  Not only was this set up a pain, but the party was pretty close to a nightmare.  I’ve heard various numbers in terms of attendance ranging from 11,000 to 14,000!  This would have been more manageable if any attractions were open, but the only things open were the Food and Wine Festival booths which all had enormous lines.  It was a mess and unless Disney makes changes to next year’s event I won’t buy a ticket.

Photo provided by Kim Knight

On Sunday we all slept in a bit since we had been out until about 3 a.m. the night before.  Kim, Caroline, and I grabbed breakfast in the concierge lounge and then lazily got ready for our day.  The first stop on the tour today was the Disney Food Blog meet up at the Beach Club.  Lucky for us we just had to stumble downstairs to the Foodie Fest.  I got to meet a lot of fun people at this one!  I was happy for AJ, the writer of the Food Blog, she had a great turn out and things were going very well.  Next up, it was time to head over to the Mexico pavilion for the Touring Plans meet!  Almost 90 readers and friends came out to mingle and hang out with us and their fellow Disney fans. We broke the record for most money spent at the young eatery!  Thank you so much to all of you who took time out of your busy vacation schedules to enjoy a drink and some great company!  This meet and several others over the weekend gave the me opportunity to meet some new friends who I can’t wait to hang out with again.  The Touring Plans staff stuck around and tried Mexico’s table service restaurant, La Hacienda de San Angel.  I only stuck around for a drink and an appetizer since Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was on my agenda that night.  The coffee margarita I had was great!  I also had the Taquiza, a trio of tacos featuring beef, chicken and pork.  It was tasty, but nothing to write home about.  Kim and I headed back to our room to grab what we needed for the party and meet up with friends.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was a blast!  I have to keep in mind that I can have a great time with these great friends locked in a windowless room, but I’m pretty sure the Disney magic had something to do with how much fun we had that night.  Keep in mind I hadn’t ridden a single attraction since arriving two and a half days ago so tonight was the night!  My friends and I enjoyed several rides and also hit up several of the trick or treating spots before finding a spot to watch Hallowishes on Main Street.  These special even fireworks are awesome!  It was great to take them in with my friends (new and old) surrounding me.  After the fireworks we headed to Frontierland to take our place for the second running of the “Boo to You Parade.”  I’m not a big parade person, but I love this one!  It is charming and a lot of fun and really shouldn’t be missed.  We hit up a few more attractions including Splash Mountain where I was the only somewhat dry one in our log and the Haunted Mansion.  We had a great time playing along with an actress outside the mansion and she was certainly a highlight of our evening.  My experience at the Halloween party has me really looking forward to attending the Christmas party with these friends in December!

Monday started off with an early goodbye to Caroline who had to hit the road to be back in Alabama at a decent time.  Kim and I went back to bed for a bit and then took things slowly getting going, packing up, and getting ready for the rest of the day.  We decided to go to Animal Kingdom when Len (of Unofficial Guide, Touring Plans, and WDWToday fame) let us know that’s where he was.  We met up with him briefly and then spent the rest of the afternoon taking in attractions and enjoying lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue.  We had a nice, leisurely afternoon for a change and it was a welcomed change of pace.

Soon it was time to say goodbye to our remaining crew as we all headed back to our resorts to pick up the Magical Express (DME)  bus back to the airport.  Back that the Yacht Club tears were shed as I said “see ya real soon” to Kim and our friend Doug.  I was the weird girl crying on the DME while other families found their seats on the bus.  I kept checking my flight’s status on my phone to make sure it was on time and all seemed to be going well.  That is, until I actually got to the airport.  As my bus was approaching the terminal I checked one last time and now it said my flight was delayed two and a half hours!  Sigh. I made my way into the airport and hung out with my friend, Dee, who was waiting for a plane at a gate close to mine.  When she took off I was left alone to deal with my delayed flight.  They must have moved the flight time up and down five times while I sat there.  Finally I got so fed up I asked the Jet Blue employee at our podium what would happen if I decided to ditch the flight in favor of one the following day.

After getting a satisfactory answer I did what so many of us Disney geeks dream of doing: I went back to Disney World!  I’ve been a victim of crazy delays for bad weather in the Northeast before and I was already exhausted from my whirlwind trip and I just couldn’t handle sitting in the airport all night waiting to see what ungodly I would wind up arriving back in Newark.  I thought I was going to cry why the pushed my flight the third time and decided it was time to go.  Lucky for me my friend Doug was staying in a two bedroom villa at the Contemporary’s Bay Lake Tower and had room for me to crash there for the night.  Kim had already decided to stay the extra night in the villa as well so I raced back to WDW in time to meet them for Illuminations.  I took a cab from the airport to the Beach Club and then made my way to Epcot’s International Gateway as quickly as I could.  I found them and our other friend, Beci, just in time for the 9 o’clock start!

After watching Illuminations for the third time this weekend (yay!), Kim, Doug, and I stopped in Mouse Gear so I could buy something to sleep in since my checked back flew to Newark without me and then boarded the monorail for the Contemporary.  While I probably should have just hit the hay as soon as we got back to the Contemporary, our friends Kevin and Joe joined us for a drink at the Top of the World Lounge on the top floor of Bay Lake Tower.  If you haven’t been to this bar it’s probably the prettiest in all of WDW and has amazing views of the Magic Kingdom.  The five of us had the best time laughing and being silly that night.  Even though I shouldn’t have stayed up late since I had an 8 a.m. flight to catch in the morning, it was totally worth it.  We closed down the bar and then had to say our goodbyes again.

My trip was wrapped up early the next morning when Kim and I made our way to the airport for our very early flights.  Luckily, our gates were close to each other and we could hang out while we waited to depart.  My morning flight was on time and I made it back to Newark without a hitch.  I stopped into Jet Blue’s luggage office to retrieve my bag and I was on my way home.  Unfortunately, I was thrown head first back into reality since I had to go to the office after stopping at home for a shower and an unintentional nap!  It was another amazing trip with my wonderful friends.  It may have been crazy, busy, and at times chaotic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I can’t wait to see these people again in December!

Next week I’ll talk more about my experience at this year’s Food and Wine Festival!

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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.

7 thoughts on “October Trip Report

  • Cheerful Xmas. Let all of your desires may possibly occur real for you plus your household in addition to lets hope the next year become productive for anyone us all. Merry Christmas

  • So great to meet you guys! I had so much fun cheering on Caroline and Len in the race and was so grateful to see you folks supporting the Disney Food Blog at the WDW Foodie Fest the next day.

    Great trip report!

  • Was a pleasure to meet you as well, Kristen. And, yes, the evening at Top of the World made that night eventhough we all should have been resting. I’m looking forward to catching up with you and the #crew in less than seven weeks at Reunion.

    Until then…

  • I have to say… Being the one of the subjects of the Saturday AM cheering section was one of the selfless acts that makes me love being part of this group of people everyday! Much mad love to you and all! See you real soon!

  • Thanks so much for waiting for me and being there at the finish line! You guys don’t know how much that meant to me after struggling through that race. Seeing everyone definitely put an extra bounce in my step as I crossed the finish line. I need that cheer squad every time I do a race!

  • Sounds like quite the jam-packed weekend trip! Did you have time to see any of the attractions?! Now I am intrigued to hear the rest of the Beach Club story. Even with that, getting the view upgrade must’ve been nice!

    • Thanks, Tom! It was, indeed, jam packed but great! I did some attractions at the Halloween party and then at AK on Monday, but that was it. If you think this was nuts just wait until reunion. I hope you are prepared to get very little sleep! Looking forward to seeing you then.


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