After a year of careful planning and preparation, my family vacation to Walt Disney World has finally come and gone. Going into the trip I was excited and more than a little anxious. I had sunk a lot of time, effort and resources into this get-away. It was very important to me that everyone have a good time. Before I get into the details of the trip, allow me to introduce the cast. I am your humble narrator and the planner of the trip. My wife, Mindy, tolerates what she calls my “Disney obsession”. We have two little girls, Josie (age 7) and Kara (age 3). Accompanying us on this trip was my mom, a school teacher who watches the girls during the week. We scheduled this trip around a rare fall break at Josie’s school (where my mom is also a teacher). School was out Nov 1 – 6 which I figured was just enough time to see and do everything we wanted to experience. I took off Halloween to make my final preparations for the trip. In addition to packing, I had to do my civic duty and vote as we would not be back in time to cast our votes on Election Day. We also had to get the girls ready for Trick or Treating. This year, Josie wanted a scary costume. So she picked a vampire. We had actually selected a different vampire costume, but when she wore it to a school party her classmates didn’t know what she was supposed to be. It probably didn’t help matters that she didn’t wear vampire teeth to school that day. Anyway, she got a second vampire costume and a whole assortment of vampire teeth for Halloween. Kara wanted to be Rapunzel. She has a whole assortment of princess dresses, so there was no need to buy her a costume this year. As you will see on the trip, she made frequent costume changes. It was cold and rainy on Halloween, so Kara has on a long sleeve shirt under her dress. We got the packing and voting done. The girls spent a cold, wet hour Trick or Treating. The family dog was shipped off to Mindy’s parents’ house for safe keeping. I was exhausted and we hadn’t even left yet. The next morning, my Mom came to pick us up in her van at 7:30 am. We waited outside for her to arrive, tossed our bags in the van and headed off for the airport. We arrived precisely according to schedule at 8:00 am. We marched through security quickly and efficiently. They announced our plane was boarding just as we pulled up. Our flight arrived in Orlando a full 20 minutes early. Historically, our arrival days have not gone so well. But today, everything was going smoothly. I actually started to worry. Surely, something would go wrong. In the Orlando airport, I started digging through my papers for our Magical Express info. Then I saw the Magical Express baggage tags. We had attached the wrong tags to our luggage. Our bags were not being delivered to our room. I wondered if this would derail us. As it turns out, the crisis was averted. We grabbed our bags from baggage claim. Mindy and my mom seemed relieved to have them. So, it was not a big deal. I’m just glad I noticed the unused tags before we left the airport. When we arrived at the Magical Express shuttles, they started boarding for Art of Animation immediately. I couldn’t believe our luck! I have never boarded a Magical Express bus in under 20 minutes. As it turns out, that wouldn’t happen today either. There were too many people waiting in line. We would have to wait for the next shuttle which arrived in about 20 minutes. My goal had been to get checked into our room at Art of Animation by 1:00. I figured this would leave us enough time to grab some lunch and make it to Epcot by 4:00. That would give us just enough time in the park to justify the cost of the ticket. Even with the wait for the shuttle, we were right on time. I had seen lots of pictures of the Art of Animation Resort as it opened in stages over the course of the last year. But seeing it in person was still pretty thrilling. The girls were in awe of the over-sized figures. The lobby was bright and colorful. I knew immediately that this was the right choice for our stay. The cast member who checked us in was extremely friendly. Andrew got things off on the right foot. We started hauling our bags to our room. We didn’t get very far before we were approached by a cast member with a luggage cart. He offered to help us take our bags up to our room. This was our fourth stay on property. The last two visits have been at sprawling moderate resorts. Our rooms were exceptionally far away from the main building. But Art of Animation is very compact. Our suite in the Lion King section was a short walk away from everything. I love the moderate resorts, but the small size of the Values is a big benefit. The cast member who helped us with our bags gave us a quick tour of the suite. Of course, I already knew the layout. But the girls were amazed when he pulled down a bed from the wall. Josie’s draw dropped. Kara called it the “magic bed” – a name which stuck for the duration of the trip. We unpacked quickly. The girls changed clothes. We knew we would be dining with princesses tonight. So, Josie put on an Ariel T-shirt and Kara donned a yellow Belle dress. If everything went according to plan, she would match Belle at dinner. Before we headed off to the parks, we wanted to grab lunch. So we stopped at the Art of Animation food court, Landscape of Flavors. I had read good things about the food court. Especially for a Value Resort. And on the whole, I was not disappointed. Like all Disney food courts, Landscape of Flavors was a bit chaotic. As it was 1:00, the lunch rush was starting to die down. But it was still plenty busy. With multiple lines to wait in, it was a bit challenging to get everyone’s meals, pay at the register, and grab a seat. But we managed. Having my mom as an extra adult made this much easier than last time. I had intended to take food pictures this trip. But frankly, my hands were always full. I was juggling too much and quickly decided to abandon the food pics. However, I did snap a couple at this first lunch. Daffystardust requested that I sample the nan and let him know whether or not it was worth the walk over from the Pop Century Resort. So, I ordered the Mongolian beef stir fry with a side of spinach. I’m happy to report that the meal was definitely worth the walk over from Pop Century. It was on par with what you would get at a lot of sit-down restaurants. For dessert, I grabbed a cute little Mickey Mouse cupcake. The face is white chocolate and the ears are Oreos which Kara ate off of the cupcake every time someone ordered it. As cupcakes go, it was big and tasty. The frosting was plentiful and extremely sweet. Strangely, the resort did not offer any chocolate cupcakes. Only vanilla with either the Mickey design or a colorful Art of Animation design. As it turns out, I was too full from my meal to eat the cupcake right away. We ended up running back to the room to store uneaten desserts in the refrigerator. Thankfully, it was a short walk. I would never have attempted such a thing at the moderate resorts. As good as the cupcake was, it was definitely not the best dessert offered at Landscape of Flavors. I’ll get to that later in the trip report. Mindy got the caprese sandwich which lived up to her high expectations. She would order it again later in the trip. My mom got a pulled pork barbecue sandwich which she said was excellent. The girls each got spaghetti and meatballs which they both devoured. This is not unusual for Kara, but Josie is a picky eater. It is very rare for her to clean her plate. Since Kara was wearing her fancy Belle dress, we tried to keep her clean by making a sort of bib out of napkins. We were only partially successful. We still had to clean her up before she would be suitable for our royal dinner. We had yet to leave our resort, but we had already had a long day. As the girls relaxed and enjoyed their meal, they started getting slap happy. I have no idea what set it off, but Kara started doing some kind of happy dance. This set Josie off in a fit of the giggles. Soon they were both dancing at the table. The dancing gave way to silly faces because that is the natural order of things. Believe it or not, this is not a fit. This is just Kara being goofy. You’ll see more of this behavior throughout the trip report. After a quick stop at the room to deliver uneaten goodies, we made our way to the bus stop. Amazing, the Epcot bus pulled right up with no wait. I told Mom she must be a good luck charm. I had hoped to get to the park by 4:00. But we would be there by 2:30! As soon as we got through the gates, the girls started exploring and posing for pictures. The girls had no idea what these giant slabs of concrete were, but they knew they wanted their picture taken with them. The slap happy goofiness from lunch was back in full force. Speaking of goofiness, I spotted Goofy in the distance. The girls agreed that Goofy was better than a cement slab and wanted to have their picture taken with him. When we got closer, Kara grew uncertain. She got cold feet, but relcutantly agreed to meet Goofy as long as I held her. I have to hand it to Goofy. He really handled the situation well. He recognized that she was uneasy and he eased her into the situation. By the time our pictures were done, Kara and Goofy were like old friends. Daisy Duck was a short walk away. Kara absolutely loves Daisy for some reason. She likes all the characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but Daisy is her favorite. This time, there was no need for me to come along. She ran right up to Daisy and gave her a big hug. As soon as we finished meeting with Daisy, Kara was demanding to go see Mickey and Minnie. I grabbed a rented stroller and we went off in search of more characters to meet.