Welcome to Disney Holiday Firsts At Last!

Click on each of the “Day” buttons to take part in the adventure and scroll past them to see the background, intros, and all the fun leading up to the trip!

Greetings and Salutations all of you lovers of Disney Magic and Holiday Spirit! If you’ve read any of these before you probably know what you’re in store for. If you haven’t then strap in ’cause here we gooooo!!!!! 


*rubs hands together and gets out checklist* 


Antacid tabs for my wonderful wife who handles the financials for our family 



Manic fascination with all things Disney past, present, and future 



Multi-tabbed spreadsheet listing costs, contacts, itinerary, and other bits and pieces 



Slightly harried AAA travel agent who I keep e-mailing and calling (gotta get my money’s worth) 



Nearly bi-polar swings between wanting to blab to my daughters that we’re going this December instead of next December and wanting to wait until the last minute to tell them 



Mickey Mouse Christmas PJs (yes, I will be sporting them at our resort when going on late night snack runs) 



Camera! cameras batteries for cameras extra memory cards for cameras accessories for cameras 



I will post a LOT of pictures. I will babble and meander in a very Disney-centric way. I will always have a focus on bringing out that special Disney smile that we get when we think about our favorite destination, our favorite places within it, and our favorite memories made there. Jump on board and follow us on our first Disney Christmas Adventure!





Okay, I’m ready to roll now! 


I contemplated stealing my own work from a past trip, but where’s the fun in that, right?

The Who:

Roger Daltrey on lead vocals, Pete Townshend on lead guitar ….wait a minute, already lost 


*clears throat*

The Who:

Mike – AKA Dad/DH, AKA MnMrMustard (on forums), AKA Mad Mustard McClure (when pirating) – 43 years old enough to know better. IT Director at a Community College, Lover of all things Disney, avid photographer, participator in Pirate festivals, and Make-A-Wish volunteer.

Favorite Park – EPCOT
Favorite Ride – Pirates of the Caribbean
Favorite Show – Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular
Favorite Character – Captain Hook
Favorite Table Service – Le Cellier
Favorite Resort – POP Century (honestly the only resort we’ve stayed at)

Roxy – AKA Mom/DW, AKA Financial Wizard, AKA tolerator of all of my weird endeavors – 38 years old. Office Manager for a Precision Screw Machine Shop and a person who finds time to volunteer for all kinds of kids/school-related stuff despite working full-time. She is also the primary caregiver for her mother who is disabled and currently living with us.

Favorite Park (sorry about this) – Universal Studios Islands of Adventure (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter)
Favorite Ride – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
Favorite Show – Beauty and the Beast
Favorite Character – Cheshire Cat
Favorite Table Service – Le Cellier
Favorite Resort – POP Century (honestly the only resort we’ve stayed at)

Kyra – AKA DD1, AKA PumpkinGirl – 16 years old. She loves Japanese culture, art, and Manga/Anime. She is a talented artist, plays the flute, and is in gymnastics. She likes playing console games and Kingdom Hearts on the 3DS.

Favorite Park – EPCOT (World Showcase)
Favorite Ride – Space Mountain
Favorite Show – Finding Nemo
Favorite Character – Figment
Favorite Table Service – CRT from last trip but I think it may switch to Teppan Edo after this trip
Favorite Resort – 1st time staying on property

Gillian – AKA DD2, AKA Bean – 13 years old. She loves animals, rides horses, skateboards, and creates animated music videos on an app called Flipnotes on her DSiXL. She also likes console gaming.

Favorite Park – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Favorite Ride – Tower of Terror
Favorite Show – Fantasmic!
Favorite Character – Tinkerbell
Favorite Table Service – Coral Reef
Favorite Resort – 1st time staying on property

What & Why

The focus is the last big blow-out family vacation to “the World” before Kyra transitions into being an adult 


 Part of the origins of the trip was her sitting through one of the shows about the Disney parks that I’m always recording. This one in particular had a segment on a Quinceañera celebrated at EPCOT. Our best alternative was a sweet 16 for her which she got very excited about.

However, all three of my ladies have birthdays in summer. After much discussion we all agreed that we just couldn’t legitimize spending the amount of money us northwesterners have to spend to go to WDW only to deal with that much heat/humidity/high crowd rates 


So instead we tossed around the idea of a holiday trip and I started putting together numbers. After presenting my findings and applying the smelling salts to wake Roxy back up 


 we had to explain to the girls that we would need more time to save up so we were focusing on making it in December of 2013 as our goal. They were let down of course but they dealt with it 


Seems like we have it figured out and the topic would die down. But Roxy and I started talking again about a month ago as we started gearing up for the girl’s next school year. We started really thinking about the impact waiting a year would have. Kyra would be a senior and Bean would be a freshman in HS.

At this point I’m going to clarify something that can be a bit of a touchy subject on the boards. I am very much in the camp of taking the girls out of school to do WDW/DLR trips. We have a strong focus on our daughter’s educational success 


 and plan it well ahead and make sure we don’t take time that would run against end of trimester/finals. Our school system has an online portal to download assignments and track progress. We have them do some homework on the trip and have a plan in place when we come home to use the 8 days their school district allows for making up any missed work.

So despite all of the work we put into making sure the girls succeed scholastically we didn’t think it was a good idea to pull them out during such pivotal years.

So we looked at the numbers, dusted off the Disney credit card, and started moving forward in earnest for a 2012 holiday trip. I had to factor the girl’s end of term which I framed so that they would have a full week to catch up before their finals week.

The other factor was Roxy’s payroll schedule. She handles all aspects of the office for her company including running payroll every 2 weeks. We settled on leaving towards the end of a payroll week (she processed payroll at the beginning of the week) and staying the entire following week.

The only downside is that we will arrive home on a Saturday evening and will only have Sunday to decompress before school/work smacks us in the face 


Oh, and as you may have seen from my initial post, the girls have no idea we’re going this year 


WhereDisney’s POP Century Resort


We have only been to WDW once as a family in 2008, and for that we were able to use my mother’s timeshare on Lake Bryan where 8 of us (plus my parent’s Rottweiler) were able to stay (see that story separately on the site if you’re interested). My wife and I returned in April of 2011 when she surprised me with a birthday trip for just the two of us (got a TR link for that one too).

For that trip we got a really good deal on a package staying at POP. We stayed in the 50s section with a pool view and enjoyed it thoroughly. We like the layout and the offerings at the food court. One of the other perks was that they had just gotten in new mattresses which were somehow firm enough for me and soft enough for Roxy. We both slept like babies.

We wanted to check out Art of Animation but the prices weren’t even close to what we were going to pay at POP. Plus we can just stroll across the walking bridge to check out AoA if we want to 


 And with POP we still get dedicated busses which I really like.


We are flying in on Thursday, November 29th and flying back home on Saturday, December 8th. We’ll be spending 5 days at Disney parks and 3 days at Universal.

Well I hope you all have a decent feel for the rough logistics of our trip and find it all interesting enough to keep following 



After talking with Roxy about doing a countdown calendar, we decided to do something different this time around. This would be the girl’s first trip to Universal Orlando and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so we would use that theme as our jumping off point.

We started with this contact sheet of misc. HP pics (I printed it out, scanned it back in, and used PhotoShop to replace the file names with a Harry Potter-ish font for the numbers):

My second step was to use Publisher to create what would be the back side showing the date we fly out:

Both pics were selected and sent to the printer as full size photos so they printed 2-sided. I used a paper cutter to create the individual clues:

We have a total of 35 clues so we figure we’ll lay out 2 per day most days. We’ll make sure we keep the numbering random enough so they can’t piece it together right away. But our goal will be that they will be able to solve it by one week out from our travel day.

Here are tomorrow’s clues. They were selected because one has the characters towards the beginning and the other is just plain mysterious:

I’ll keep you all updated as to when they find each clue and when they figure out that there is more to it than just pictures. We’ll of course play dumb when they start asking questions 



Happy ‘fall back’ day everyone – hope y’all enjoyed the extra hour of sleep this morning 


This morning was our first without our mother-in-law living in our house. It has been stressful for all involved. The girls have been kind of down over the whole thing so Roxy and I talked about the clues last night before we went to bed. We decided to go a different way with things today.

We let the girls sleep in and when they got up they came out to the living room where I was watching Top Gear, a show we enjoy watching together. Roxy had been in the bedroom and while we were relaxing she set things up.

She came out to the living room and told the girls that it looked like one of their animals had gotten into something and made a mess in the hallway and that they’d better come clean it up. When they came to the hallway the clues were spread all up and down it. Some were picture side up and others were face down.

The girls quickly brought them together and started to figure out parts of the pattern. It was a bit too complex so we finally relented and told them the number sequence. They taped them together in strips of 5 and then flipped them over, arranging to discover the date.

Once that was done Roxy asked if they knew what this meant. Gillian was totally clueless but KYRA asked if it was a new Harry Potter game or “Harry Potter Land”. I said “do you mean ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’?” She said yes.

Here’s where it gets a bit funny, although Gillian has been approached by two of her teachers about an upcoming vacation she still doesn’t get it. And Kyra thinks we’re just referring to next year. I go to our bedroom and pull out the packet and give it to them. It is only when they see the departure date that it sinks in.

They got pretty giggly and happy while they looked thru everything and I explained some of the details. We brought up the map of POP Century and let them choose which area we were going to stay at. They chose 50s, which works great for Roxy and I as we stayed there last time.

And since the jig was up with the Harry Potter clues, I was able to hang up this. It has a picture of the castle at Christmas and Hogwarts during the grand opening:

The girls will get to take turns pulling off LGMHs, one per day. The number amount under each head is worth an equivalent dollar amount that they will have for extra mad money in the parks 


As you can see there are only 23 days to go until we roll over to Medford and the Super 8 for our overnight stay before we fly out. Whoohoo! 



It is my last day of work …10am and I am wrapping up the last of the things I need to take care of here. Finishing up projects or handing them over to my networking team. Outlook out of office is ready to turn on so this afternoon I click it and record my voicemail out of office and I’m done.

Meanwhile my mind drifts to the smell of Main Street, to being blinded by the Osbourne Festival of Lights for the first time, to smiling through watching Finding Nemo live at AK again, and to discovering all of the wonders of the holiday season from around the world as we stroll around World Showcase at EPCOT.

That and a million other things flit through my brain. At home yesterday afternoon Gillian and I sat in the living room watching YouTube Disney clips on the big screen. My phone is linked to the PS3 console’s YouTube app so I can search and cue up videos from it – it is very addictive when you’re about to leave for a trip 


On the planning side it is, well, it is all pretty much done. I had my main check list of reservations and purchases and they have all been done for a couple of days now. One big score with that end of things is that I hadn’t yet purchased our 3 day park to park tickets for Universal and low and behold, they popped up with a “buy 2 days, get the 3rd free” deal! 


We also purchased the meal deal for Universal. It allows for basically all you can eat at 3 quick-service style dining areas at each park. We’ll buy the commemorative cups when we get there and we’re golden for food and drinks. Between that and the Disney Dining Plan for WDW the only thing we have to pay for while we’re there is tips, memorabilia, and MEARS transportation to Universal from POP 


The bags are tagged and packed with our clothes and such, just have to add the toiletries after everyone uses them in the morning. I have never felt this calm and together for a trip before. It is a weird feeling. I’m used to frantic last minute running around and curve balls. The closest we’ve had is Roxy and Kyra both have a sinus thing going on but we think that is allergies and not a cold. They are on meds so we’ll see how that goes.

Tomorrow I am off from work and will be loading up the rig and might go get a haircut or something. I’m just that out of things to do. In the afternoon I will pick up the girls and we will go visit Roxy’s Mom for a couple of hours. Roxy will get off of work and meet us there. Once the visit is finished we’ll go grab the dogs and hit the road for Medford and drop them to the sitters. Then check-in at the Super-8 and pizza delivery for dinner and swimming.

Here’s a couple of pics from our stay there before our last trip:

Weird to think that those were taken nearly 5 years ago!

Well back to work for me as I try to stay focused and get things done here. This may be my last post on this as a Pre-Trip Report. I’ll probably have it transferred over to the Trip Report section tomorrow. Thank you all for being a part of the planning, nostalgia of past trips, and assorted hiccups that this PTR has been.

A Very Merry Disney Holiday Season to you all!!!!!!! 


November 28th –

It is Wednesday November 28th and the weather is starting to change from cool and clear to a bit blustery here in Southern Oregon. There is a storm moving in sometime early Thursday and I’m hoping our flight will get off the ground before it hits us.

My wife and daughters head off for one last day of work and school. My day was going to be pretty open. All of our bags are packed except for the toiletries that were used when everyone got up this morning. All reservations are made and the pre-trip checklist has checkmarks by everything except the stuff I can’t do until the afternoon. I’m thinking I may even go get a haircut before I head out.

I just have to stop by the store and pick up more cold meds and some stuff for Roxy’s Mom and run by the bank to cash the checks I had been holding for our daily spending at the parks. However, she suddenly needs her nails done. Not a big imposition since she gets them done at a salon attached to Wal-Mart. So I shop while she gets them done.

She even comes along on my bank run. But then she starts dropping hints/doing the ‘I wish you had more time’ thing to eat lunch with her. I say no problem and we go back to the Suites where she lives and we sit down for a lunch which goes as fast as you would imagine it would when you’re at a table with 3 older ladies eating a salad, entrée, and dessert.

We finished and she had a couple of things that she needed help with in her apartment. I ended up calling Roxy to see if she could pick up the girls. Luckily she was going to leave at 3pm anyways and went straight to get them. I said my good-byes to mom from all of us and got home and helped Roxy load the toiletries. I then made up our daily spending envelopes and did a couple of last minute things with timers for the lights (both Christmas and interior).

We finally loaded up and made our last stop at Bean’s friends house to drop off keys so she could stop in an take care of our cats. We made it to Medford and to our friends/dog sitters place sometime around 6pm. Then it was off to Abby’s pizza for dinner. It was about 6:30pm by the time we started eating.

I pulled out my phone for some quick pics – Bean was happy because there were spuds

This theme actually repeated throughout the trip &spuds = happy Bean

PumpkinGirl was less enthused but we finally goaded a sarcastic smile out of her

Roxy was a good sport

And I used the forward facing cam to take a pic of myself, which Bean photobombed lol

After eating it was off to the Super 8 a few miles down the road!

Check-in was pretty painless but by the time we got bags unloaded and settled in it was almost 9pm . My original plan was to be here closer to 6pm and the girls had been promised pool time. But Roxy and PumpkinGirl were sick and exhausted and I was waayyy too full from dinner to get in the pool.

Bean reeeeaaaaallllyyyyy wanted to swim though so I agreed to accompany her to the pool area. By that time of night it was empty so she had it to herself. I was posting my first update on this TR and took a little video. My apologies for the shaky camera and weird angles, I was using the Duo’s built in webcam and filming while looking at the screen isn’t an easy undertaking (I will have to convert this – modern websites apparently won’t play old school WMV files):

I let her swim for about 30 minutes, then it was back upstairs for quick showers and bed. The ladies were fast asleep with cold meds on board. They had maybe 7hrs sleep and Bean and I got about 6 before the 4:30am wake-up started the first real day of our adventure!

Tune in next time for Day 1 Traveling to MCO, checking in at POP, and getting a glimpse of Art of Animation!