A Very Merry Wine and Dine Half Marathon Trip: November 2018


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This trip was a little bit of everything. Work conference, a few solo days in the parks, Wine and Dine half marathon, family fall break, and the first night of MVMCP. In spite of a couple of somewhat negative posts from me on returning (I was hoping to save others from some of our mistakes) it was a pretty great trip! So, I figured I’d give another trip report a try. I might end up with more highlights and lowlights than a complete report. Otherwise with a 10-day trip I might be a year in writing it if it’s anything like my last attempts :RpS_lol:

The trip came about when I realized my professional society’s national convention, the Wine and Dine half marathon, and the kid’s fall break all came together in one “magical” week. It seemed like fate. Normally we travel with grandparents and sometimes extended family but for this week it was just our nuclear family; my husband, 2 boys (6 and 7 years), and me. The boys have hit a pretty great age for travel. Self-sufficient enough that having extra adults no longer feels imperative (although we all missed grandma), but still young enough that most everything at Disney still delights them.

Convention hotel rates are truly the best deal! We were able to stay at the Grand Floridian with a convention rate more than 50% off rack rate for 8 of our 9 nights. The last night was not within the dates available for the convention room block so we booked that as a separate split stay (thank you BeckyW). We decided to splurge and stay in the same room type at Grand Floridian for the last night in hopes of not having to change rooms for just one day (spoiler, it worked out perfectly with no hassle at all in the check-out/check-in process).

Thursday November 1
Travel day for me. My husband and the kids would travel on Saturday to avoid missing extra days of school. But I “had” to go earlier for work. Friday would have been sufficient for the conference but I had changed my flight from Friday to Thursday night in order to participate in a service project at Give Kids the World sponsored by the conference. After I changed my plans the organizers discovered they were capped at 150 volunteers and we had 20,000 in attendance for this conference. I ended up on the wait list and unsurprisingly did not make it off the wait list. By then it was “too late” to get a reasonably-priced Friday flight and I “had” to figure out what to do with a full solo day at WDW!

I know this sounds crazy, but I really enjoyed the flight. Bliss for me these days is 2.5 hrs. of uninterrupted reading and no guilt that there is something more productive I could be doing. It was so relaxing to have no one else to worry about or entertain. And I had some lovely free drink coupons compliments of my Southwest Visa.

DME was 1 hr. 15 minutes from arrival at the counter to getting off the bus at my hotel. Pretty good time! Very few people in the evening and the bus stopped at 4 hotels rather than the usual 2 or 3, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and finally BLT.

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I had a room ready text and went directly to the room only to find that none of my magic bands worked. Not surprising in hindsight since I forgot to inactivate a few before I left and I was over the 7 (or is it 8?) maximum before things get wonky. It was only 15 minutes to get it sorted at the front desk and then I was relaxing in room 7405 (standard outer building) in the Conch Key building (thank you Dave for the building recommendation). With this view of the castle and fireworks. It was like deja vue from my room arrival at VGF to the pm fireworks on the Marathon weekend trip

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To get a partial park view with a standard room you want a NW facing room in the Conch Key building. 4th floor is ideal, as high as you can get without having a dormer room. These are odd numbered rooms 7401-7423. 7405-7417 is the sweet spot. The higher numbers are further down the hall and a little closer to the park with a slightly better view except for the last few, but 7405 was just fine. 7401 and 7403 are set back a little and their view is obstructed by the balconies of the higher numbered rooms on that hallway. 7419-7423 have some tree and balcony obstruction (from the theme park view room at the end of the hallway). As stated in Dave's review of Grand Floridian, Conch Key is the ideal standard building. As convenient as you can get to the boat, pool, and main building without excessive noise. We used the Touringplans room request fax (at the last minute) and I was very pleased with the result.

My original plan (more deja vue from the Marathon weekend) was to monorail to the Polynesian for a drink and snack at either Trader Sam’s or the Tiki Terrace but fatigue prevailed and I made a Kind bar my dinner and called it a night. I had packed everything I needed for the first night in my carry-on and asked the desk to hold my DME checked luggage until the morning. The room phone rang at 12 and 1 am and I finally unplugged it. They did not seem to get the message I didn’t want my suitcase thank you very much I was asleep with a “room occupied” sign on the door. Oh well…it was probably better than begging for my suitcase for an hour on arrival day on the Marathon trip?

At least I didn’t have to throw down $1000 and turn around and fly home that night. These little gems are still available (at least for now) at the GF and an antimicrobial crisis was averted.

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Although turn down service is no longer automatic. I love those cute little Grand Floridian packaged chocolates but was too lazy to call for them. I guess that means I don’t love them enough.

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ETA: Boy those photos looked way less blurry on my small phone screen. Sorry about that.
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It's so nice to take a trip with just your own family, as much as we enjoy traveling with our extended family!

I need to find a conference to get in on to get a great rate at the Grand Floridian! My friend got a similar deal-- her husband is an RN and went for a medical conference. There don't seem to be any teacher conventions at WDW. :-/

Looking forward to hearing about your trip!


Well-known member
It's so nice to take a trip with just your own family, as much as we enjoy traveling with our extended family!

I need to find a conference to get in on to get a great rate at the Grand Floridian! My friend got a similar deal-- her husband is an RN and went for a medical conference. There don't seem to be any teacher conventions at WDW. :-/

Looking forward to hearing about your trip!
The convention rate is really amazing! I've done GF x 3, Beach Club x 3, and Polynesian x 1. That or renting points is about the only way we stay Deluxe. I think it's reasonable to base career choices on what has good potential for a convention at Disney. I once found myself briefly considering signing up to sell Tupperware when I heard they have a convention at the Contemporary :RpS_biggrin:

I saw someone in Education administration post they went to a Disney Institute conference...


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I just hate it when I try to do god by volunteering, but they're oversubscribed, and I end up with a day to myself at the Grand Floridian. :RpS_thumbsup:

Also I'm with you on the flights. As long as I don't have to travel too, too much for work, I find the quiet alone time refreshing. Glad that overall you had a great trip despite the previously-reported hiccups.
My husband's job have conferences but they keep having them at the coast, I love the beach. I keep telling him to mention Disney, it's a great place for conferences. :RpS_wink:

Can't wait to hear about your trip both the highs and the lows!


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I just hate it when I try to do good by volunteering, but they're oversubscribed, and I end up with a day to myself at the Grand Floridian. :RpS_thumbsup:
I know, it was rough! I was going to write that I was disappointed about missing out, which I genuinely was, but was afraid it would sound disingenuous. It was a pretty good "problem" to have :)


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Friday November 2

Three Parks and an Expo
Even with the time change I was awake at 4 am. I just cannot sleep well the first few nights in a hotel room. Plus, I’m an early riser by nature. At 4:30 I gave up on falling back to sleep and called for my suitcase.

Car Care Center
At 6 am I called for the shuttle to the Car Care Center. I needed a rental car for the convention but didn’t want to keep it for the whole trip. Picking up and returning mid-trip to the Car Care Center was the cheapest option. It avoided airport taxes and the extra charge for return to a different location than pick up. It was a little difficult to figure out in advance how early I could get the car. Disney had open time listed as 7 am or 8 am depending on which web page I looked at. Alamo had 8 am as the earliest pick up option. The front desk at GF gave me the local phone number (not available online or from Alamo) and let me know the shuttle started at 6 am. Perfect!!!!

I love early mornings! There was only one other customer and I was in and out in what felt like record time (at least for having to go to a rental car counter and not just direct to the car). It seemed a waste to go back to the hotel (I could surf on my phone just as easily at the front of the line at Epcot as from my hotel room) so I went directly to Epcot.

No parking attendants. I was parked at 6:53 am with only one other car in the guest lot. It was a 9 am open and I was thinking it was too bad I hadn’t planned on RD at AK that am. But with the uncertainty about what time I could pick up the car I hadn’t wanted to plan anything time sensitive that morning. Plus, I “had” to make sure I got my 4 days at Epcot so I could get my “free” AP Wine and Dine Festival cheese board.

Two hours of waiting at the front of the park just to RD Soarin’ seemed like overkill so I checked MDE for any PPO breakfast options and booked Akershus for one at 8:35 am. Yay! I love princesses but the boys are now giving me the thumbs down for any princess meals. I couldn’t help but think of this as I planned my “Me party”


At security there were only the family from the one other car and 3 security CMs. We were told it was going to be at least 45 minutes until security opened due to maintenance inside the park. I enjoyed sunrise from the front of the park.


People slowly trickled in. And they started getting restless due to the late open. Plus, there was some bickering about people moving forward to form a second line at bag check after the security CM (over a microphone that everyone could hear) begged people to form 2 lines because he didn’t think he “smelled that bad??” These people were SERIOUS about their PPO breakfasts! At 7:55 am security was given the all clear and the hounds were released.

As the only single person with one bag at the front of the 3 security lines I was the first inside the park!!!! Take THAT small children with your strollers and diaper bags! I didn’t even have an opportunity to throw any elbows. All joking aside it was fun to head through a deserted Epcot and on to Norway at my own pace, crowd-free. I was not the first to arrive at Akershus, however. One family from IG entrance arrived before me (shakes fist). I was seated and had food on the table before Belle came out at 8:10 am.

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Options from the buffet (the muffin wasn’t worth it but the rest was a solid choice). There were other meats and cheeses, pastries, melon, and yogurt and granola.

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It seemed a waste they brought so much food for one person. I sadly didn’t even touch the Mickey waffles because of my plans for a carb-heavy tea later that morning.

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I was able to see Belle, Aurora, Cinderella, and Snow White by 8:44 am. Ariel, the final princess, was 2 tables away when they announced the Princess Procession and I figured it was time to queue for FEA.

8:48 FEA queue (2[SUP]nd[/SUP] in line). The family in front of me said they skipped Snow White and Ariel in order to be the first in the queue.

8:56 “first family” (not those first in line but a family chosen near the front of the park) had a little ceremony of knocking on the door to be let in. It was pretty cute. Then everyone was released into the queue.
9:00 am exactly I was departing for Arendelle on the 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] boat of the morning (the first family had the first boat to themselves, as it should be).


Brisk walk to Soarin’ and entered the queue at 9:14 am with a 25-minute posted wait. I was at the FP merge point 4 minutes later and leaving the building at 9:40 am with another brisk walk ahead of me to the United Kingdom for my 9:45 am tea reservation. So far a pretty great morning!


Active member
Sounds like a great start to your trip. Ah, child-free....I look forward to a solo day(s) at WDW. I just may have an opportunity in January. Can't wait to read more, Anne :)


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Sounds like a great start to your trip. Ah, child-free....I look forward to a solo day(s) at WDW. I just may have an opportunity in January. Can't wait to read more, Anne :)
How exciting! Can't wait to hear about your January plans if it works out :)


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Rose and Crown Tea Experience

Here is Disney’s description of the event.

Interesting to note they have a picture of the tea service from Garden View Tea Room at Grand Floridian on this page which is a little misleading. The ADR is pay in full at the time of booking with a 2 day (?) cancel policy. Currently the cost is $30 but will increase to $35 in April. This replaces the tea tours that had tea samples but no food. There is no age restriction posted on the site, but I did not see any children attending on this morning.

I made it to Rose and Crown at 9:47 and yes, they really mean it when they say they start on time. They were doing introductions when I walked in. I console myself for my tardiness with the fact that there were 2 other parties that arrived after me. I was seated with a family of 5, parents with adult children. They were very nice and went out of their way to include me in their conversation. So far, I have had uniformly good experiences at WDW with communal seating arrangements. People are overall pretty friendly (unless you cut off their stroller and then all bets are off).

Each seat at the table has a cute place card. You can take your card home but sadly the little tea pot holder is not included. They make sure this is clear by collecting the little tea pots when serving the final food course. I asked if they were available for purchase in the tea shop and of course now I can’t recall the answer.

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Tea Sampler with 4 Twinings teas

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Small individual pots of water are delivered and guests are instructed to brew the first 2 teas and an adorable tea timer is provided as well. Different colored sand (and duration) for each tea type. The timers can be found for purchase on the Twinings website but are not in the Epcot tea shop.

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While the first teas are brewing the sandwiches arrive. Salmon salad, Irish cheese and pickle, egg salad, and my favorite the coronation curried chicken. These were nice and fresh and a solid finger sandwich offering.

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There is an iced Lady Grey tea to cleanse the palate. And then a second round of water is brought to brew the final 2 tea samples and scones are served. The Scones are also a solid offering. Fresh and light with clotted cream and strawberry preserves on the side.

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Disney Food Blog listed the experience as lasting 45 minutes. But on my day the last course was served at 10:40 and it was about 11 am when I was leaving, for a total time of 1 hr 15 minutes.

Overall, I would recommend the experience. It was a reasonable value for Disney prices. If you are debating between this tea and Garden View tea room, I think it all depends what you are looking for. We did Garden View later in the trip and I will post more details when I get to that day. The sandwiches and scones are similar recipes to Garden View but are fresher here and I enjoyed them more. Garden View has more courses, larger portions, and a more formal atmosphere but it is also higher in cost. For me what set this event apart was the “experience” portion. The interaction with the CMs from the UK who were available to answer questions about both tea and life in the UK, the discussion about teas and tea trivia, the hands-on tea brewing, and the interactions with others at the table. I will note that if you are a regular tea drinker probably neither experience is going to meet your tea needs. The water provided to brew the tea was tepid and the resulting tea just didn’t have that much flavor. And it was bagged tea. We had a similar slightly warmer weak tea experience at Garden View. Maybe Disney doesn’t want the liability that goes with water hot enough to brew a proper pot of tea?

ETA: I dug out my receipt for Garden View and realized I was remembering the cost as significantly higher than it was, so amended my comments above. The standard Garden View Tea is $35, but does not include tax and gratuity, whereas the Rose and Crown tea's $30 cost includes tax and gratuity. For $35 the tea at Garden View is slightly better (a lot better if they have a good day and make it stronger), scones and sandwiches are similar, and there is a dessert course.
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For some reason in my planning I hadn’t factored in going to the Expo until just a few days before I left so I had a bit of a rush to squeeze that in between Epcot and Wild Africa Trek at AK. I was making sure my solo day was PACKED. Lucky for me the Expo was nothing like my experience on the first day of Marathon weekend. No traffic, no line. The bib pick-up was right by the parking lot and I was thinking “how great is this I’ll be in and out in 15 minutes”. And then I recalled I had to go to a different building for my race shirt. And as long as I was there and making good time I might as well take a look at the merchandise. All the race pins were sold out except the 5 K. I pre-ordered the pin bundle for the princess half but wasn’t thrilled with the quality so haven’t done the pre-order again thinking I’d decide which pins I want based on how they look in person. But then it’s been hard to even find the pins at the Expo. So maybe next time I will give pre-order a try again? They had these displays of the new official runDisney costumes which I don’t think were out yet at the January Expo?

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Expo Villain.jpg

And what is a Wine and Dine Festival Expo without drinks?

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I changed in the bathroom (no skirts allowed for Wild Africa Trek because of the safety harness) and headed to AK. I really don’t know what I was thinking, it’s not like anyone else at the tea was wearing a skirt. We usually don’t have a car but I could get used to this. So convenient too for leaving changes of clothing, race packet, shopping, etc when there isn't time to go back to the hotel.


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I'm loving your report. Early solo rope drops are the best. I can't wait for the runDisney part of your trip.
I'm so glad you're enjoying it and hope it's helpful for others planning. This was my first solo rope drop and I loved being able to go at my own pace. I never would have been able to get FEA and Soarin' done by 9:40 if I was there with the whole family.

I can't wait to post about the race. It was my absolute favorite race I've done so far!!!


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We love to have a car too. Once you do it makes it hard to go back to Disney transportation. Anxious to hear about the race too. I need to finally do a runDisney.

It is funny to see your pictures of the race wear. We have started to go to the Outlets once a trip and when we were there in October there was a ton of runDisney outfits. I guess they do not sell as well as they like sometimes.


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It is funny to see your pictures of the race wear. We have started to go to the Outlets once a trip and when we were there in October there was a ton of runDisney outfits. I guess they do not sell as well as they like sometimes.
That is really interesting. But I guess not completely surprising. I am probably their target demographic and don't think I would purchase one unless my costume fell through and I needed something last minute (which I guess is why they have the big display at the Expo). For the price I can get something much nicer, custom, with more details on Etsy. And the fabric on these is pretty thin and doesn't instill confidence in terms of performance. I can't recall seeing anyone wearing any of the official runDisney stuff during the race, but saw several I recognized from Etsy.


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Wild Africa Trek
I forgot to mention race traffic in the morning. I had no issues. Yay! Friday the 5 K was just at Animal Kingdom. The other two race weekends I have done (Princess and Marathon weekend) start and finish for all races was at the Epcot parking lot. I also mention the race because it impacted my tour choice for this day. I had originally wanted to do the morning World Showcase tour at Epcot but was told it wasn’t offered due to race weekend and the increased crowds expected.

I’ve done several Animal tours/events before, including Wild Africa Trek in 2014, Wanyama Safari (Jikko), Dine with an Animal Specialist (Sanaa), and Caring for Giants (twice). It’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, but Wild Africa Trek is my favorite experience overall. Of the WDW tours offered I’ve also done Undiscovered Future World, Backstage Magic, Keys to the Kingdom, and Disney’s Family Magic. While I enjoyed those (except Family Magic which my kids didn’t love either) there isn’t the same repeatability factor for me as tours and events with animals where the experience is more varied. I mention the other tours in case anyone has questions about tours in general. I’m happy to talk about the ones I didn’t do on this trip and the pros/cons of each.

Wild Africa Trek offers a 15% (?) AP and DVC discount but only on the afternoon tours and only during certain times of year. Children 8 and up are allowed. We didn’t have any younger children, just one couple with an older teen daughter. Up to twelve participants for each tour. Check in is to the left of the Kilimanjaro Safari entrance. Except for the tours that start before park open which meet in front of guest services (to the left of the entrance) outside the park.

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Surprise! Jason, one of our two guides, was also my guide in 2014. He has been doing the tours from the beginning in 2011 and I think he exemplifies the Disney difference. Enthusiastic about his topic (even after 7 years of the same tour every day), personable, knowledgeable, inclusive, and just all around good with people and managing a group.

At check in we were weighed privately and fitted for the lovely safety harness and vest and were told there are no exceptions allowed for weight requirements for the harness. From Disney’s site “Participants must be between 45 and 300 lbs. with the harness gear on. The safety harnesses used for this experience may prohibit Guests of certain body shapes or sizes from participating”. The harness has straps that secure around the legs which is why no skirts allowed and shorts, if worn, need to be longer. Closed toe shoes are also required. Belongings need to go in lockers, including magic bands and phones (unless they have a strap which can be secured to the vest). Glasses and sunglasses are attached to a strap is provided by the tour. We were all given a stainless-steel water bottle to clip into our vests which we could keep at the end of the tour.

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It’s kind of scary to realize how attached I’ve become to my phone. I felt this unease about my family not being able to reach me for 3 hours and had to consciously remind myself that for decades my life functioned just fine when people couldn’t reach me every minute of every day. It was a good reminder. Pictures are taken by the guides and it was nice to focus exclusively on the experience. Plus, the guides take way better photos than I can and edited them for us. At the end of the tour we got a claim number for a website not associated with MDE or photopass. Just put in the number and unlimited downloads for 90 days. There was a section of just our photos from the tour that day and another section with stock Wild Africa Trek photos of the "best of the best".

Safety harness used for walking out for hippo feeding and discussion with a keeper about the father and son hippo duo Henry and Hans

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