For the family vacation this year, we loaded up the family truckster (metallic pea with the optional rally fun-pack) and headed to Orlando. We scraped some money we had been saving and handed it all to the mouse. Since we travel as much as we can and as cheap as we can, we look for every opportunity to save a few coins with the whole Disney experience. Sidebar: free ice water at counter service mixed with some cheap single-serve lemon aid powder packets snuck in and you can enjoy a cool cup of lemon aid. It’s all part of my mission of sticking it to the mouse.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I hate the mouse, I just don’t want to give him anymore money than I have to. Anyhow, on our third day at the parks, we headed to EPCOT and started the day. When I say “started the day,” what I should say is “deployment of operation Stick Mick.” My wife Stephanie is our travel guru and resident Disney expert. With some intense planning we watch the crowds zig and we zag. While others are standing in line, we are riding the most popular attractions for a second time; again, stickin’ it to the mouse. On with the story. On Monday, we went to EPCOT and were one of the first 500 people in line (of course). We walked thought the gates and headed to a fountain just beyond Spaceship Earth (the giant ball at EPCOT). At the fountain we were stopped by a rope as well as several employees (cast members) from Disney. An expected barrier. Cast members hold the crowds so that there is not a mad stampede to the most popular places. We strategically located ourselves at a pre-determined point at the rope for maximum zagging.
After a few minutes a cast member came and asked me “How many in your party?” A bit confused I said, “Um… 4.” “Would you like to come with me?” Ami (the cast member and our soon-to-be hero) lifted the rope and we ducked under, leaving several hundred people behind us. She led us around the corner to another cast member (Chris). Standing next to a car matching those used at Test Track, Ami said, “How would you guys like to be Family of the Day?” I thought to myself, “If it means we get to stick it to the mouse, I’m ALL about it.” Ami and another cast member started dishing out treats like it was Halloween. “How about a free picture with you and all the characters?” OK. “How about a free fast passes?” Yep. “Oh, here is a coupon for free ice cream for the whole family.” You bet. “And you guys will have VIP seating at the Illuminations display this evening.” Well, if we have to.
Out of nowhere came other cast members, a photographer, and a load of Disney Characters. They treated us like we were related to Walt himself. I was digging the Family of the Day scene. We took a few pictures and I figured we would be on our way. No, no. “Hop in the car,” says Ami (my new hero). We jumped in the car and Chris drove us past the same crowd that they pulled us from. Music playing, characters dancing, cast members smiling and waving. On the sound system a voice said “Good morning and welcome to EPCOT. Please welcome all our Disney characters and our Family of the Day.” I’m sure I heard someone in the crowd say “Man, I hate that family.” We drove past the crowd and I was certain Chris would dump us behind a building and we would be on our way. Wrong again.
Our chauffeur drove us right up to the entrance at Test Track where we exited the vehicle. A Test Track cast member (Ferris) said “Hey, Family of the Day, follow me.” We just looked at each other, this was too much. The mouse was getting stuck like a voodoo doll in the hands of a deranged man. We followed the guy through the test track gates (which were void of people). He led us to the ride and we sped around the track. At the end of the ride he said, “How about you go again?” The mouse may have started to bleed. We spun around test track a second time, all while crowds of people watched us. We finished the second round and Ferris took us to the picture place.
You know the drill, at the picture places; they display a picture they took of you on the ride and try to sell you a $1.00 picture for $16.95. We have rarely purchased a picture like this. It would violate our mission of thriftiness and would mean that I gave the mouse the advantage. But how can you say no to something as special as a Family of the Day photo? Ferris led us to a printer kiosk and spoke with another cast member. There was some type of problem with the printer and they ended up with two prints. I can jolly well guarantee that I was NOT paying for TWO overpriced photos. Ferris took the photos, put them in an envelope and handed them to us. No cost. Somebody call 9-11. The mouse is getting faint. I was again expecting that we get cut loose and run the park licking free ice cream and cutting the front of lines with our passes.
Wrong. We followed Ferris to the “Test Track VIP Lounge.” This is a special area overlooking EPCOT on one side and Test Track on the other. Test Track VIPThe lounge is reserved for General Motors Employees and (of course) the Family of the Day. “Help yourself to the free sodas,” offers Ferris. Drink up kiddies, this may be the only soft drinks you get at Disney and they should taste great since the mouse is buying. With each gulp, a sucker punch. I drilled Ferris with questions about the ride and EPCOT in general. Quite fascinating.
We finished at the VIP Lounge and Ferris walked us out of the building. Again thinking we were on our own, I was surprised to hear Ferris say “I will take you over and put you on Mission Space.” Well, of course you will; we are Family of the Day. Ferris walked us in, gave us some quick history and put us on the ride. I liked our new friend. When we finished Mission Space, we were on our own. We spent the rest of the day using bonus fast passes, eating free ice cream, and gaining VIP seating at the Illuminations show.
I left the park with the a tired family and a smile on my face. On the way out, I may have heard the sound of an ambulance. No doubt headed toward the Mick. I pictured him with empty pockets, on his knees, hands against a tree, gasping for breath from the beating.
[tags]Mickey Mouse, Disney World, Walt Disney, Epcot, vacation, family of the day[/tags]