So, Now What?

Alright, the easy part is done. You have:

  1. Picked your trip dates
  2. Found the perfect hotel 
  3. Decided on using Disney’s Magical Express 

What else could be difficult? 
Other than paying for it. You are on your own for that one! (but donations can be made to my vacation fund, see me for further details)
The waiting, without a doubt, is the most excruciating part of the build-up to the vacation. So, my feathered friends, how do you pass the time? I may have a few ideas to speed up the process*.

  • Countdown timers

There are a ton of countdown timers on any app store to mark your special occasion. Are you looking for a way to keep track of you next birthday? There is an app for that. Wondering how long until your wedding? There is an app for that too. Curious how long it will be until your next Walt Disney World vacation? You guessed it, there is an app for that also. Personally, on my phone I use Days to Go WDW which is readily available in the app store. You can customize just about everything: pictures,  font, and most importantly, the date you are going (this is the important one).timer

  • Music

One of the best things about the parks is listening to the music that is played throughout the parks (a.k.a. background music).  Thanks to our new modern day marvels, we can listen to music anywhere in the world (probably). Magical Mouse Radio is my go to choice when it comes to in-park audio, it has everything! The commercials you remember from being a child…oh they are there. The best background music in the world, they have you covered. Even some on ride audio is available.

  • Videos

Thanks to YouTube, sights and sounds of a day in the park are only a few clicks away! This one is my personal favorite because seeing the warm weather and warm people are a great way to escape the doldrums of every single day or, as MickeyDude Tim puts it, “the frozen tundra of Southern Canada.” There are a ton of personalities on the internet so, without a doubt, there is someone that will be your perfect fit. I recommend looking up See Ya Reel Soon for Disney videos, sadly (for us) they have stopped uploading videos but that is because they are starting a family, good for them!

If you want to look at all of Orlando life, take a look at The Tim Tracker videos. Tim and his wife Jenn are two fantastic people that bring us into their everyday life and give us a peek inside what it is like living in Orlando, from what I can tell it is hot.

So, there it is, at least a starting point on things you can do to pass the time until you’re on your way back to the vacation kingdom of the world. In the mean time…might I suggest some Joffrey’s DisneyParks and Resorts Specialty Coffee Collection, it’s the next best thing to being there!

 

*Time is a finite measurement and I have been told it is not possible to move it forward…. Yet.

 

 

runDisney Rookie Year: Going All In

Running:

  1. (noun) the action or movement of a runner 
  2. (adj) Denoting something that runs
  3. (verb) movement of a speed faster than a walk

Any way you slice it, defining ‘running‘ is the perfect antithesis to me. I am 6’4″ and ALL of 250 lbs, but thought 2016 would be a great year to: 1. Get in shape, and 2. Try out this runDisney phenomenon. My family are all runners, and the kids have both been competitive at cross country…so I’ve always wanted to join in on their misery…sorry, “joy”. 

Full disclosure: I’ve played sports my whole life…so I’m not opposed to short bursts of running for a reason , but never was a fan of ‘jogging’ (I think it’s pronounced ‘yogging’ with a soft ‘j’). Being an avid Disney fan, I’m always looking for my next new experience…runDisney was always on my radar.

Testing the waters: Princess 5K

Rare characters like Tourist Genie from Aladdin make it special (I forgive him for stepping on my foot)
First up was the Disney Princess Half-Marathon Weekend (Feb.). I’ve run a few 5K’s, so this was a distance that wasn’t too intimidating (even though the feminine title was). Getting up early was a different story…here’s how the math plays out: 

  • 5K start time: 6 am
  • Walk to corrals: 5 am
  • Unload from buses (long, cold walk) and go through security: 4:30 am
  • Load bus at resort: 4:10 am 
  • Bus stop at resort: 3:50 am
  • Wake, getting ready and eat small breakfast: 2:30 am

That’s right…2:30 am!! Now this is just the 5K. Roll back all times for 10K and 1/2 marathon which start at 5:30 am. This is definitely a labor of love for runDisney fans. 

Running through EPCOT at dawn though was sublime

Turning to the Dark Side Challenge

When Disney announced the Star Wars runDisney events (Light Side in Disneyland, Dark Side at WDW), the little fanboy in me did something totally insane: I signed up for my first runDisney ‘Challenge’. A ‘Challenge’ is generally defined by Disney as 2-5 runs with special medals for each completion. For the Dark Side Challenge (April), the runs consisted of 10K and 1/2 marathon (Sat., Sun.). Keep in mind, I had never run more than a 5K and I was attempting successive runs of 10K  and 1/2 marathons! I was dealing with an injury on top of it all…but somehow I pulled it off!

For the inaugural 10K Star Wars run at WDW, I decided to cosplay. I was Boba Fett’s Waterboy (crossover from the Adam Sandler character). I even went as far as having a legit water back-pack with not one but two paper cup dispensers (I was proud of this costume).

Who designed a customized Boba Fett themed shoe from Adidas: THIS GUY!
 Sure, it was an amazing experience…one might even say “Once in a lifetime”, because I don’t ever plan to do another challenge again! I ended up losing 3 toenails, had swollen knees for a week, and had to get a steroid shot in my foot when it was all over. They can take my toenails…but they can’t take my memories.
Did this happen? It already feels like light years away

Superheroes are Superest at Disneyland

Finally, I was told by many runDisney enthusiasts that the coup de grâce of runDisney is at Disneyland…so that’s where we went for the Superheroes Weekend (Nov.). Word of caution: to be able to fully enjoy the advantages of running at Disneyland, it is to stay onsite and preferably at the Disneyland Hotel which is NOT cheap. The Disneyland Hotel not only hosts the Runners Expo (where you have to go for your bib, shirt, etc.), but also is about 300 yards from the start and finish of the races! Remember the times I quoted earlier from a typical WDW race…well, we strolled out of our hotel to walk over at 5:00 am for our 5:30 am race.  Plus, we were still on central time which felt like 7:00 am…not bad at all.

No time for characters, but plenty of time for selfies

The Disneyland runDisney event was everything positive we had heard and more. For the 10K we ran through both parks and Downtown Disney and it was full of amazing sights and sounds throughout. We had a later corral, so we weren’t able to do any meets with characters…but that’s OK, I’m not even a big Marvel fan…just running through these pinnacles of Disney theme park master work was reward enough. 

I have a tempered expectation with runDisney now. On one hand, it’s an exclusive Disney experience offering a rare glimpse inside the empty parks with often rare and exciting characters. On the other hand, they are VERY expensive, often held on off-peak times as a scheduling stop-gap (conflicting with school schedules), are mostly SUPER early morning events (not a morning person). The biggest complaint coming from a Disney theme park geek, the runs cut into my theme park touring energy budget. All this being true, we will eventually do another event…there’s a good chance it will be Disneyland, but don’t count out another Star Wars run from a Star Wars geek 😉

Bonus: all the free ice you want at the end of the races

Touring with a Special Diet Child… Part 1: The Planning

Well, I’ve gone and done it. I canceled my ADRs for Hollywood & Vine and Sanaa for our upcoming July trip.  Hollywood & Vine was going to be my youngest son’s  4th birthday meal and I’ve been trying to get into Sanaa for years now.  No, the trip has not been canceled or in danger of being canceled.  Why the heck would I do something crazy like that?

You see, our 4 year old has epilepsy.  He has been on approximately 9 medications that have failed and we have now moved onto what the medical field calls Ketogenic diet.  It is a high fat, low carb diet that somehow adjusts the chemicals in the brain to reduce or completely eliminate seizures.  The meals that have to be prepared are measured to the nearest .1 gram and much of the goodness found at WDW is not on the diet.  When we go to the World at the end of July 2016, we would have only been on the diet for a month.  So the wife and I decided that since we will still be newbies to diet, it would only be fair to us and the boy to just cancel the ADRs and modify our touring.   Yeah, we could tell the chef of dietary restrictions, but as you will see below we will feel better preparing the meals ourselves.

Without getting too technical, the boy must have X amount of fat, carbs, protein and calories that are put into a calculator and magically produces a number that we must stay within in order for this diet to work.  Eggs, bacon, lots of butter, some fruit and veggies are some of the foods that are allowed.  The foods must be meticulously measured out and he must eat it all (our major struggle at the moment).  Any deviations could cause the diet to fail and seizures to re-emerge.

This has obviously thrown a major monkey wrench, even gorilla wrench, into our lives.  So, how are we going to tour the World with all these restrictions?  Don’t worry, we have a plan.

family and vader

First hurdle: getting to WDW.  We always take the 7-9 hour drive from central South Carolina to Orlando.  For meals we would just hit the drive-thru of whatever “grease house” is on route and drive on.  Now we are going to have prepared lunches and snacks that will be consumed at a rest stop, adding extra time to our trip.  All of us will now enjoy a tuna-fish sandwich and broccoli instead of a Big Mac and fries.

Second conundrum: Where to stay?  We were booked for a Savannah View studio at Jambo house.  This was our first stay at AKL and were overly excited about getting to experience the resort.  However, we now need at least a 1-bedroom Villa so that we can take advantage of the full kitchen to prepare the youngster’s meals.  With less than 30 days left to vacation time I hit the DVC website to find one for the length of stay.  Of course, there were no 1-bedrooms at AKL (or anywhere else we wanted to stay without having to change rooms at least once).  So I did what any man who loves their children would do: I called DVC and gave them the sad story of what we needed and why we needed it.  Through Disney Magic, and a most gracious and awesome Cast Member named Lolito, we were able to book a 1-bedroom at Wilderness Lodge for length of stay.  Not our first choice, but good enough!

Third, and hopefully final hindrance: Meals in park: The meals and snack will be prepared in the kitchen that will be placed in plastic containers and put into a cooler.  When meal time comes around, we will essentially do a child swap.  The youngest will dine on his prepared meal while one of us stays with him.  The older one will go with the other parent to a quick service meal and then switch with the parent who stayed behind.  Not ideal, but it would not be fair to eat a good ole’ Columbia Harbor House lobster roll and homemade chips in front of a child who can only have 2 slices of salami and some broccolli slathered in ranch dressing.

the other mickey

To the thousands of readers who took time out and read about this, thank you.  I don’t normally put personal stuff like my child’s condition out to the public, but I feel that it needed to be said so that someone could possibly learn from it.  Part 2 will be a trip report.  Not about how much we enjoyed the world, but from our experience with dealing with this diet and stuff we learned that could help us in planning our next trips.  If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me.

Twitter: @turkyleg1

Facebook: Kyle Ostrander