Before Vacation Started:
The company I work for shuts down for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so I was off for a week and half before we even left for our trip. This gave me time to do laundry and make sure everything we wanted to take was clean and ready to go, I had time to go pick up any items we had wanted to buy, take down my Christmas trees and get most of my decorations put away. It was actually pretty nice to not be entirely stressed leading up to a trip. It also gave me time to post this on my Instagram (remember, these are in celsius since I’m Canadian!)
The day before we left, we drove out to my best friend’s and dropped off our two dogs. She has a dog of her own, plus she was looking after her dad’s two dogs. Her husband works away, so she looked after five dogs all on her own – I don’t know how she did it, but I was so grateful for her! Our dogs are so much happier staying there than they are at a kennel…
Also – yes, I only posted that stuff so I could post pictures of my dogs . Our neighbours would be looking after our cats and degus, so they came over to make sure they knew where everything was. Their three year old daughter figured she should just come with us on our trip, and climbed into my suitcase haha:
January 3, 2017
Our alarm went off at some ungodly hour – I believe it was 3:30am. We had completed most of our packing the night before, so it was just a matter of getting dressed in the clothes we had laid out, brushing our teeth/hair and putting the final few things in our bag (phone chargers, etc). We filled up the food dishes for our cats and degus (our neighbours would be checking in on them every day, but we knew they wouldn’t be over until after work – so at least 13 hours later, loaded everything into my car, and we pulled out of our garage at 4:15am. We had originally said our aim was to leave around 4am, so we weren’t doing too bad. Luckily we live close to the outskirts of the city, so we have easy access onto the highway, and we were pulling into the parking lot about 25 minutes later. Since it’s January, and we’re Canadian, we had decided to treat ourselves and book valet parking, since they will scrape all the snow off your car and have it turned on and heated up when you return. We had a discount that made the price comparable to regular-priced normal parking, so I was happy with our decision
Another perk to the valet parking we used is that it’s owned by WestJet – the airline we were flying to Orlando with. Inside the main building of the valet parking, they actually have a gate agent so we were able to check in, get our boarding passes and check our bags there – instead of lugging our suitcases onto the bus to the main terminal, then lugging them inside, then standing in line to see a gate agent there. This turned out to be a great thing, by the time we reached the main terminal the line up was HUGE! Since we had already completed it, we were able to head directly to security. Security wasn’t bad at all, within 15 minutes we were through and heading to our gate – which of course was all the way at one end. The Edmonton airport isn’t insanely large, so it really wasn’t a big deal. Once we reached our gate and verified that boarding hadn’t started yet, Luke went to Hudson News (the chain store that seems to be in every airport) and grabbed a microwaved breakfast sandwich and a coffee he deemed “terrible”, and a bottle of water for me.
On our first flight, we were row 6 so nice and close to the front of the plane. It was a really short flight, we were flying from Edmonton to Calgary which is only a 3 hour drive by car. I was of course checking in on facebook – I have some worriers in my family and they always want to know if we made it to our destination haha.
The flight itself only lasted about 45 minutes, and was very uneventful. Once we landed, we were off the plane very quickly since we were so close to the front. Calgary has a new International terminal that just opened a few months ago, so it was all new for us. We hopped on the new “Link” Shuttle to take us to the customs area. Here’s a little video I found, it was pretty neat and the new terminal looks great! When we got there, the line up was HUGE! We had to go through security again, which did take about 20-30 minutes due to the size of the line. It moved fine, but they could probably use a few more lines. Once through security, our boarding passes were scanned to check on the status of our suitcases. It popped up on the screen that it had not been processed yet, so we had to wait off to the side in a little seating area. Luke decided to use that time to go to the washroom, and he had barely closed the door when our names popped up on the screen saying we could proceed to a customs agent. We went to the electronic custom kiosks without any wait, got our print-outs and then went up to a customs agent (again, no wait). He scanned our boarding passes, and an actual picture of our suitcases appeared on the screen – we had to confirm that they were ours. This is so much easier than claiming your bags, and then checking them again once you reach the International terminal (like I’ve always had to do when I go through Toronto). Once we told the customs agent where we were headed, he made a few jokes about it and told us to have a great time
We made a stop at the Duty Free Store where Luke picked up a small bottle of Baileys to enjoy with his coffee while on vacation. I decided to run to the bathroom, and when I came out Luke had ordered us some food from Burger King. We had tons of time before our next flight left, so we sat and ate, and I checked in on facebook again.
We eventually headed to our gate. My only complaint of the new terminal was that there is not enough seating at the gates. I know there is still a lot of construction ongoing, so hopefully more will be installed soon! We boarded the plane, and were getting ready to push back a few minutes early but of course there was a pair who was late. The pilot came on and told us he was going to wait for them, since their luggage was already stored under the plane and it would take longer to pull it off the plane. So we ended up leaving a few minutes late.
I was able to sleep a bit on the plane. Luke watched the newest X-Men movie (his review was: meh?!). I woke up right before the flight attendants came around with food, so we both had a ham & swiss croissant (my WestJet go-to!). After eating, I slept a bit more, then woke up and played games on my phone. The flight was over 4 hours, and despite our late start we landed in Orlando right on time. We got onto the Fake-O-Rail and enjoyed our first view of the Florida sunshine
We had booked our stay with a DVC Rental, and had asked them to add the Magical Express to our reservation. We had received a letter in the mail a few weeks prior to our departure with information on our pick-up from Saratoga Springs at the end of our trip. Since we were doing a split stay, we assumed our Old Key West info would show up before our trip – it didn’t. I had contacted the points rental company we had used, and they assured us that we were on the list, and would be allowed to board a bus at the airport to take us to our resort. But, because we never received our OKW Magical Express packet, we also never received our bright yellow luggage tags So our first stop after getting off the fake-o-rail was baggage claim. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s one of my favourite parts of using DME. Of course, one of our suitcases was one of the first ones to appear on the baggage carousel, and the other bag was one of the very last ones…
After collecting our bags, we went and checked in for Magical Express. They were able to find our names quickly, and instructed us into a line for Old Key West, Saratoga Springs and Port Orleans. We got into line – and were the only people in any of the lines. It was quite strange, that place was jam packed on our trip last year. We only stood in line for a few minutes before being directed to a bus. We were obviously the first people to load the bus, but then we ended up sitting for almost half an hour before we got moving (the bus was not even half full by the time we left the airport).
Pretty soon, we saw this glorious thing:
Sorry, it’s not the best picture but it’s the best I could do from the window of a moving bus in the dark…
Old Key West was the first drop-off location, and we were the only ones on the bus getting off there. We were also the only ones on the bus who had luggage under the bus, everyone else had correctly received their yellow tags We tipped our bus driver, and headed in to check-in – our trip was about to begin!