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Trip Report Masksgiving: a daring escape

Okay, maybe the title is a little misleading. It wasn't all that daring...

So, the Brifraz clan made a second trip to WDW since all the re-opening. This time, a little more aware of what to expect but also a little more wary because of what we were expecting. For those who might have missed it, we headed to the World this summer for two weeks in July, just a short time after all four parks had reopened. It was certainly an odd trip - and not just because of the COVID precautions - both @MeffysMom and I had significant amounts of work that we were doing (she was taking an AP teachers course for half the trip and I was writing curriculum for a few days). We found that the limited offerings (no shows and no fireworks) were disappointing, but the limited crowds and lines were pretty refreshing. You can read all about that one if you want - July Trip Report.

As a family with three people in different local high schools, our lives are pretty much dictated by the school calendars, so upon returning from that summer trip, we all were getting ready for the unique situation that has been this school year. At the time, we didn't know whether we would be in-person, virtual, or some hybrid. So there was quite a bit of anguish and frustration in terms of planning (only augmented by the fact that I'm a music teacher and had to have three distinct plans for marching band, which should have started in early August). Eventually, our school board decided that we would be starting the year with virtual learning (our schools start after Labor Day), but moving to a hybrid model October 19th so we were planning basically a month with the virtual approach and then figuring out how to make a hybrid plan work.

Without getting into too much complaining and woe, I'll just say it was tough for all three of us. Teaching music virtually is certainly not an ideal scenario for me, my wife's school administration was changing the rules/guidelines for students on a daily basis, and our daughter was trying to cope with her senior year activities getting cancelled one-by-one. At some point in there, I began having small group/socially distant/masked but in-person marching band activity which was great for the kids but a LOT of additional work to normal for myself (and support staff). Then a couple days before we were supposed to move to the hybrid plan, the Board of Ed decided to stick with virtual for another couple weeks. So, plans all had to be re-made and adjusted and changed. Suffice to say, we were all a little stressed. Which meant, that @MeffysMom started 'relaxing' by shopping online for cheap hotel rooms at Disney so we could escape for a few days.

Now in mid-October, she found a pretty good deal on the Holiday Inn right next to Disney Springs, so we decided to go ahead and book a brief visit - driving down on the night before Thanksgiving and then leaving the Sunday after. Plans were made, ideas hatched, ideas were revised, others recent reports were read. Basically got all our ducks into rows as best we could. Then (much to our surprise), we found ourselves back in school buildings on November 5th in a hybrid model with less than half the students opting to be in the building and those spread out into two groups (so about 20% of students in person on any given day) which lasted a whopping four days. Not going to get into the politics of all of this, but the fact that our local Board of Ed is making decisions that impact over 25,000 students and 2000 teachers just a day or two before implementing them and then reversing those decisions just a day or two later... well, that causes a little stress. Sorry, I've digressed from the topic at hand which is a Disney visit, right? But, I did so for a little perspective - and to explain why, just about 10 days before our trip, we added another day to the visit with the drive now planned for Tuesday before Thanksgiving and not leaving until late Sunday night.

As expected, we now filled every moment that wasn't work (which was not nearly enough moments, for sure) with re-planning, hatching new ideas, and revising the revisions to our plans. The biggest 'concern' was the crowds. We knew it wouldn't be nearly as empty as the summer, but we had been impressed with Disney's COVID precautions at that time so we weren't too worried. So we planned accordingly and tried to figure out ways to avoid the most crowded times and places as best we could.

Tuesday, November 24th finally arrived. I failed to mention earlier that I am still doing all my virtual teaching from my school because there is no high speed internet where we live and having three of us on Google Meet at the same time just doesn't happen successfully. So, I was at my school, but left as quick as I could (my last class of the day got a little extra time to work on their own) and we managed to get ourselves on the road at about 2:30pm which meant a potential arrival in the Orlando area around 6am on Wednesday.

IMG_0157.JPG
(notice eyes are still on the road)

See you there!
 

brifraz

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Looking forward to this!!

Me too! I am here!
As much as I feel for my kids during this mess (senior and sophomore) I feel for the teachers probably more. They are expected to bring their A game using a medium not conducive to A game teaching.
But there is Disney....
So that helps, right????

Oh how wonderful it sounds to escape to Disney....even for just a few days! Following along!

I'm in for the fun!

Following and looking forward to your TR!

Ready to follow along. Let the Magic begin.

Thanks to all for joining in! It's been a very long time since I last did a TR that wasn't at least somewhat 'live.' And since all those live TR always end up with me saying 'final thoughts soon' and then final thoughts never happening, this time I've already got final thoughts and can sprinkle them throughout. Those thoughts are so happy to get to come out and play for once! I make no promises as to the rapidity and frequency of the posts as the work is taking up a rather inordinate amount of time, but I will do my best to make time to get this done somewhat regularly!!
 

Minnesota disney fan

Well-Known Member
Count me in too!
I don't know how the teachers do what they have to do with covid! My daughter works in the high school here, and no one seems to know what they are doing. They had hybrid schooling which was not working. Alot of the 9th graders were failing!!!
Now, apparently after school break, they are talking about all online learning! So confusing, and not fair to the kids or teachers.
Sorry, got on my soapbox for a while 🥴 .
Glad to be following!
 

RememberWhen

Well-Known Member
Looking forward to this! I definitely relax by planning imaginary Disney vacations, but I don’t usually actually book them. Hope the trip was awesome!
 

brifraz

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
So, once we got on the road at 2:30pm, we were ready for the usual agony of DC to Richmond, which technically is about 100 miles but can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 4 hours to drive. Much to our surprise and very good luck this was one of the better times driving through there. We are also very lucky now to have 3 drivers, so far fewer rests are necessary! What does this all mean... we were pulling into the Holiday Inn parking lot a little before 5:30am! And, since they are not fully booking the hotel and rotating room usage, our room was ready. It was very nice to be able to get into a room and get cleaned up and chill for a few minutes. Most trips we head straight to a park so this was a welcome change. After this blessed hour, we headed to Universal Studios for a quick morning visit.

IMG_0162.JPG


They had Early Entry for AP holders, which we are, so we were in the park at 7am and the girls quickly headed to Hulk to ride with no wait. Hulk is not one of my favorites, and with little sleep was definitely not on my list for this day! Next up, we headed back to Hogsmeade to visit with Harry Potter. BUT, since Wednesday was still a school day, we had a pause at 7:30am which is when our school days begin. Our virtual schooling plan actually requires that Wednesday be a 'catch-up' day where we only teach briefly and then work with individual students as needed so we didn't need a lot of time. My administration had approved for me to create a video for my class, so I just had to release that for them to watch, but @MeffysMom and our daughter both were logged into classes live on the bridge between Hogsmeade and Jurassic Park!

IMG_0979.JPG


I think the Team Member who was guarding the entrance to Jurassic Park was pretty entertained by us (since JP doesn't open with the early hour).

Once students were properly on their path to enlightenment, we headed to Hogwarts to fly around on an enchanted bench or something like that! Not too much of a wait, so we were out by 8am and able to book a ride with Hagrid using the Virtual line system. Since our window wasn't until 8:40am, we walked around Hogsmeade a bit and grabbed a quick snack. And, at 8:20am, spent a few minutes logged in to our second classes of the day.

At 8:40am, we headed into the Hagrid line. And it was moving pretty well on this morning so we quickly got online and booked it again for 9:10am! For the second ride, the girls went alone and I caught up on about 20 student emails that were questions about what they were doing. So, we both got done things that we 'needed' to do, right?

After the second Hagrids ride, we headed out of Islands of Adventure. I'm not sure if we are getting quite our full value out of the Universal Annual Passes this year, but that morning extra hour is pretty convenient when it's rides that the girls really enjoy! Now we were headed to Epcot. See you there.
 

brifraz

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
Now, we had read online that the parks were generally opening up parking at least 30 minutes before official opening time and that the park itself was open as soon as people were allowed in. So, at 10:30am we were entering the parking lot and immediately headed into the park.

071cdfb6-fd97-440a-b8e8-6f3e1a6a1303.JPG


And heading toward Test Track. We were in line at 10:55am and the wait was already listed as 90 minutes. But, in fact it only took about 45 minutes - yeah, wait times throughout the trip ranged from half the time listed to pretty accurate - and the time in line gave us a chance to catch up with our classes! Pretty happy to see that mask wearing was being enforced pretty darn well by Cast Members and for the most part people were keeping their distance as appropriate. Having a car to ourselves, we had a little fun with our picture.

d3e409a6-1707-4200-b02a-23dc5ab2b569.jpg


Next up, a couple more hours in Epcot and then back to Universal - because, well... because.
 

Swissmiss

Premium Member
Sounds like this was certainly a well deserved break!

Sorry to hear about the inconsistency in the decisions in your school district; that has to be incredibly stressful. The high school where my daughter started this fall has equipped each room with a video camera and microphone and this has been used when an entire class has had to be quarantined (not yet happened to my daughter’s class but has for one of her friends) and of course masks are required for everyone on the premises.
 

Songbird76

Well-Known Member
Count me in too!
I don't know how the teachers do what they have to do with covid! My daughter works in the high school here, and no one seems to know what they are doing. They had hybrid schooling which was not working. Alot of the 9th graders were failing!!!
Now, apparently after school break, they are talking about all online learning! So confusing, and not fair to the kids or teachers.
Sorry, got on my soapbox for a while 🥴 .
Glad to be following!
Is your daughter a teacher or is she part of the support staff? I can imagine it's difficult no matter what your position is. How are counselors supposed to counsel? Or resource teachers help the special needs students if those students are at home? They have to be creative.

I was lucky when they were doing the remote learning, my kids both thrive in that environment....they loved it and still got straight A's. But they were definitely the minority, and I felt bad for my daughter's class....1/3 of their class was failing already BEFORE covid happened and they went to remote learning. By the end of the year, most of her class was failing. They ended up allowing everyone to decide for themselves whether they wanted to go down a level or stay with their current class, but if they wanted to advance, they had to have an academic plan in place to do so, including tutoring or homework help, etc. The school decided not to do remote learning once they went back to in-person at the end of the last school year, and they have not done anything different this school year than regular in-person instruction, but a lot of schools over here are being forced to close because of rising cases. The teachers really don't want to go back to remote, but I don't know if they'll be able to avoid it.
 

Songbird76

Well-Known Member
So, once we got on the road at 2:30pm, we were ready for the usual agony of DC to Richmond, which technically is about 100 miles but can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 4 hours to drive. Much to our surprise and very good luck this was one of the better times driving through there. We are also very lucky now to have 3 drivers, so far fewer rests are necessary! What does this all mean... we were pulling into the Holiday Inn parking lot a little before 5:30am! And, since they are not fully booking the hotel and rotating room usage, our room was ready. It was very nice to be able to get into a room and get cleaned up and chill for a few minutes. Most trips we head straight to a park so this was a welcome change. After this blessed hour, we headed to Universal Studios for a quick morning visit.

View attachment 518566

They had Early Entry for AP holders, which we are, so we were in the park at 7am and the girls quickly headed to Hulk to ride with no wait. Hulk is not one of my favorites, and with little sleep was definitely not on my list for this day! Next up, we headed back to Hogsmeade to visit with Harry Potter. BUT, since Wednesday was still a school day, we had a pause at 7:30am which is when our school days begin. Our virtual schooling plan actually requires that Wednesday be a 'catch-up' day where we only teach briefly and then work with individual students as needed so we didn't need a lot of time. My administration had approved for me to create a video for my class, so I just had to release that for them to watch, but @MeffysMom and our daughter both were logged into classes live on the bridge between Hogsmeade and Jurassic Park!

View attachment 518567

I think the Team Member who was guarding the entrance to Jurassic Park was pretty entertained by us (since JP doesn't open with the early hour).

Once students were properly on their path to enlightenment, we headed to Hogwarts to fly around on an enchanted bench or something like that! Not too much of a wait, so we were out by 8am and able to book a ride with Hagrid using the Virtual line system. Since our window wasn't until 8:40am, we walked around Hogsmeade a bit and grabbed a quick snack. And, at 8:20am, spent a few minutes logged in to our second classes of the day.

At 8:40am, we headed into the Hagrid line. And it was moving pretty well on this morning so we quickly got online and booked it again for 9:10am! For the second ride, the girls went alone and I caught up on about 20 student emails that were questions about what they were doing. So, we both got done things that we 'needed' to do, right?

After the second Hagrids ride, we headed out of Islands of Adventure. I'm not sure if we are getting quite our full value out of the Universal Annual Passes this year, but that morning extra hour is pretty convenient when it's rides that the girls really enjoy! Now we were headed to Epcot. See you there.
I love your wife's mask!! I can't read your daughter's...but the M looks like it might be a Ministry of Magic M? Is it HP as well? I'm a huge fan!
 

brifraz

Well-Known Member
Original Poster
I love your wife's mask!! I can't read your daughter's...but the M looks like it might be a Ministry of Magic M? Is it HP as well? I'm a huge fan!

We are all in Potter masks. Mine is little golden snitches on black. Our daughter’s is famous headlines from the Daily Prophet and obviously Meffysmom is in the Deathly Hallows pattern one. She made all our masks.

And, do take note - at Epcot, I was now in a Mickey as Steamboat Willie mask and Meffysmom is in a Jasmine mask.
 
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