Neal - Party of 10!
We met some friends from Atlanta at WDW and all in all ended up with 6 kids and 4 adults in our party for most days at the parks. At the end our neighbors were also there and joined us along with some more friends from Georgia. 20 people! Woo Hoo!
We got some amazing deals through Southwest.com. Originally it was looking to be about $1200 for our family of five but then went up to $1600. But I finally found a direct flight for $1275! Both flights went great. We have flown Southwest all three trips the past three years and have had no problems whatsoever.
As in our past visits, we stayed offsite in a condo at the Emerald Islands Resort. This was our fourth stay there and it just feels like home. I know staying onsite has its perks but the condo is cheaper than a hotel room and we get 3-4 times the amount of square footage. Plus mommy and daddy get their own room! :) $600-700 a week for 1400 sq feet is tough to beat. If anyone wants the link or info just let me know. You're guaranteed to get a discount if you tell them I sent you. :)
We ate mostly counter service on this trip. Our favorites were Flame Tree BBQ at AK, Cosmic Ray's at MK, and Electric Umbrella at Epcot. We didn't get to try the new counter service in Mexico unfortunately. We had a couple of sit downs at TRex, Rainforest Cafe, and Outback. All were great meals. I know these aren't fine dining but it was mostly for the kids and they had a blast! The ribs at TRex were pretty good too.
We rode Buzz Lightyear the most in our three visits to MK. I think we totaled 10 rides in all. My neighbor put up all 9's on his second time through. The closest any of us got after that was in the high 500's to low 700's. It was fun trying though. A couple of time wait times were down and they let us ride twice without unloading. Also had a contest for funniest face since it's so easy to pose for the camera on this one. Good times!
All the classics were great, Pirates (rode 6 times, group favorite), Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and all the others were enjoyed over and over. Wait times were in the 20-40 range most of the time with a few afternoons getting up to 50 for Splash and Thunder.
Disney Hollywood Studios
Buzz Lightyear and Star Tours were the popular rides for us and everyone else on our two trips to DHS. Fast Passes and a few choice times to ride let us get 4 rides on Star Tours and 4 on Toy Story. The scenarios were fun in Star Tours. Big upgrade over the previous incarnation. However, the ride still doesn't stack up against the top ones at WDW. I give it an 8. Fun but not worth a long wait. Rockin' Roller Coaster, Tower of Tower, Muppets, the shows, and Fantasmic were great as usual.
And the highlight for the kids was our epic runs on Everest. Both days we went straight to the back and got four rides in on Everest back to back. Our plan was get fastpass, ride until FP is ready, then ride again. Both days we came back and got in last minute rides before the park closed. The second day we got two in bringing our total to 11 for Everest. The kids were all stoked and proud of their new "record". :)
I like AK as a whole but other than the Safari, Everest, Tough to be a Bug, Nemo Show, and Lion King Show, I get bored there pretty quick. Hope they add more their soon.
Soarin', Soarin', Soarin'!! Did I say Soarin? Love this ride! So smooth, so realaxing, so simple, yet so awesome! We did the front of Epcot on Day 1 and the World Showcase on Day 2. We stopped in every country and browsed. First time I did that in one day and took my time. Lots of neat architecture and little details to enjoy. The American Adventure is one of my favorites along with the Three Caballeros. As far as Maelstrom goes, I think someone was tripping on LSD or something when they came up with that. What a strange ride!
Our friends from Atlanta have a five year old daughter who has Mito Disease. It's a terminal disease that most kids don't survive. She's a beautiful little girl and it was great to see her enjoying the parks and characters when so much of her life is pain and suffering. Disney did a great job helping the family with character meet and greets, providing a handicap pass for her wheelchair, and making her feel apart as best she can. This is what sets Disney apart. What a wonderful memory for her and her family. I was so happy to have been there and to experience it.
Ten days at Disney in the end was a bit much. We normally take a few days at the end to lay by the pool or hit the beach. With so many friends in town we decided to keep hitting the parks and enjoy sharing in the fun with everyone. No regrets but I am definitely wore out! This was our last visit to WDW and Orlando for a while. Three years in a row has been an amazing run but the next few years have some other things in store for us. But we have many great memories to share and enjoy. My kids (8,10, and 12) are near the end of enjoying the magic as they near their teens. I don't think their ever let go of it though, they showed no signs of slowing down on this trip. So hopefully in 3-4 years we'll be back!
In the meantime, I look forward to reading about your visits!
As for being done with Disney for a while... not gonna happen. Cars Land opens at California Adventure in 2012, and your kids still need to ride the REAL Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland! Start saving those pennies!