ALWAYS CHOOSE A DISNEY RESORT: A Solo Trip Report, Part 1

Over a year later and I promise I’m going to get through these trip reports! Anyway, let’s get to it!

This trip was extremely last-minute. I booked this trip on October 28, 2016 and flew down to Orlando just a week later on November 4 for a trip that would last that Friday to Monday. At the time I was working on a project that really required me to be in Orlando on a regular basis, so when I found out I had an extra day off from work in November making a long weekend, I took the opportunity.

Because I booked this trip with only a week’s notice, and because the Wine and Dine Race is that weekend, Disney’s resorts were fully booked. I’ve actually never stayed off property before and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t looking forward to being outside of Disney, but I still wanted to take advantage of the extra day off from day job. Being such a last minute trip, this was extremely low budget. To save some extra money, I booked my resort using Priceline’s Secret Deals. In case you’re not familiar, Priceline’s Secret Deals allow you to book rooms for dirt cheap, but the catch is that you won’t know which resort it is until after you’ve booked. This might sound shady, and while this experience in Orlando wasn’t great (we’ll get to that soon), I have used this feature in the past, and I’ve saved a lot of money at some really nice resorts. Even though you don’t know which resort you’re booking until the transaction is done, you do know the area and the number of stars the resort is listed as. It even usually will tell you things like “comparable to a Hilton, or Best Western” or whatever else.

Before we get to the resort, let’s go back to the night before I left. It’s about 1:00 am the night (well actually morning) of the day of my flight and I’m still awake and sitting on the couch making my Food and Wine Festival ear headband. I know, this is already completely ridiculous. I had to leave to go to the airport in three hours and there I was making ears, but the weeks leading up to this trip were really busy with work, and I had to squeeze in the time to make my ears wherever I could! While I was working on cutting the flowers to glue onto the ears, I must have been rushing (or just tired) and I somehow managed to cut the tip of my finger clean off with the pair of scissors. By the tip of my finger, I mean the rounded top of your finger that would stick up above your nails if you have short nails. Clean off, just like that… The lesson here is don’t be stupid and careless by making floral ears in the middle of the night.

I was in hysterics as I went back and forth between running my finger under water in the sink and holding towels to it crying because it hurt so bad. I mean obviously cutting yourself hurts, but in the grand scheme of cuts the top of my ring finger really doesn’t have much flesh to work with and it still absolutely killed. Chaz immediately called one of my friends who is a nurse, and we showed her my finger and asked her if she thinks it needed stitches and if we should go to the hospital. No stitches were needed, so Chaz bandaged it up with gauze, bandages, and medical tape from our first aid kit and ultimately ended up finishing the ears for me. (Yes, Chaz is actually the person who deserves most of the credit for these floral ears, he’s obviously a keeper).

Once I landed in Orlando, I booked the Mears shuttle to get to my hotel, which was my first disappointment from not staying at a Disney resort. The Mears shuttle while an absolute steal at $25 per person probably took me about four times as long to get to my resort as Disney’s Magical Express would have. I sat next to the Magical Express buses and watched each bus come and go multiple times before my shuttle arrived. And when my shuttle did arrive, I was the second to last stop which also likely took longer than the Magical Express would have since the shuttle goes all over Orlando and not just around a small area like Disney. $25 was a great price point for me wanting this to be a cheaper trip, but at the end of the day I would have preferred to pay more for an Uber to get to my resort faster. While I wasn’t a fan of the Mears shuttle, and I likely wouldn’t use it again, I should note that this is the only time I’ve taken it so it is possible that the shuttles aren’t always this bad and I just caught them on an off day.

I arrived at my hotel around 3:00 pm, which was only about an hour or so after I had planned, but I thought this would be fine (I was wrong). This is probably a good time to point out that I’m not disclosing the name of the hotel on this post– I had a really shady experience, and while I absolutely would not recommend this resort based on that, management really did work with me and I don’t think it’s fair to everyone else there to trash it in this post.

Anyway, when I checked in the woman working the front desk asked if I was visiting by myself. Kind of a weird question while I’m standing there by myself and she’s presumably looking at a reservation for one. I told her I was and she proceeded to pity me and ask if no one else could come with me, which isn’t that big of a deal but I found it rather odd and definitely not very service-oriented. I replied that I didn’t mind traveling by myself and I was spending some of the weekend working anyway, and that I have friends in Orlando I would be meeting up with anyway. Then the conversation took another strange turn…

“Oh you’re working, what do you do?” she asked.

“I’m a writer,” I responded, at this point kind of annoyed with the small talk and just wanting to be on my way.

“A writer! You’re not writing a review of the hotel, are you?”

Yea… This is something she actually said. In any case, I took my room key and began walking over to my room. While the outside of the resort didn’t look like much (it was very motel-esque from the perimeter of the property) the mid-section of the resort and the areas leading to my room didn’t look half bad. There was a decent little gift shop, a bar, pool, and a quick service restaurant, kind of akin to a Disney value resort without the obvious theme. I walked up to my room on the second floor with a parking lot view and swiped my card… and nothing happened. I tried again, and nothing. Once more, still nothing. I sighed, and began to lug myself and my bags back to the front desk. The front desk gave me a new key card, and I again returned to the room to try it out. As I half expected, swipe and nothing. This time I called the front desk from my cell phone and they said they would be sending someone up to take a look.

The man who came to help rather violently swiped the card and then pulled the door towards himself and then forward into the room telling me, “You just have to pull the door towards you, it gets stuck sometimes.” Umm… if it gets stuck sometimes maybe you should have it fixed? In any case, I thanked him and walked into the room to finally change the bandage on my finger… and the maintenance man followed right behind me. Again UMM…

“I just wanted to check to make sure all these lights are working while I’m here,” he said as he walked over to the lamp next to the bed and flicked the switch.

Meanwhile I moved towards the doorway, totally uncomfortable with this guy just walking into my room while it was very obvious that I was staying there alone.

“Looks like it works,” I said while holding the door open for him to leave.

“Guess so,” he replied, “So no family or anyone with you?”

“My friends are on their way over right now,” I lied.

Even though the second he asked that question my mind was basically made up that I didn’t feel comfortable staying at this hotel, I still didn’t want to give him any kind of further inkling that I might be alone. He tried to continue the conversation asking me if I knew where things were in Orlando, and in an effort to get him to leave I told him I used to live there and didn’t need any help. Instead of leaving he took this as an indicator that he should say something along the lines of “Oh great! Maybe I’ll see you out at CityWalk later!”

If it weren’t for my throbbing finger and the  wound that was starting to show through the bandage, I would have grabbed my things and run down to the front desk in the middle of this encounter. But my finger was in so much pain and felt so itchy from the bandage that had been on for all those hours, I just wanted to finally be able to wash it and change the bandage. He did leave, when I pretty forcibly told him that I really needed to get to a meeting for work and as soon as he did I put the deadbolt on the door and ran to the sink to change my bandage. While near the sink, I noticed some hairs on the floor, kind of like what happens when you clean your brush out. Gross. I desperately needed to pee but could not bring myself to use the bathroom there, since when I went in to where the toilet was I found more hair on the floor and what appeared to be baby cockroaches hanging out all around the light fixture. If there was any question about whether or not I would stay there after that shady interaction (which there wasn’t, my mind was well made up), the state of the bathroom would have definitely done it.

With my new bandage on, I grabbed my bags and left for the front desk once again. On the walk over,  I looked at the time and noticed that I really did have a work engagement to get to. I had planned on being in Epcot to meet with another blogger in about twenty minutes, which obviously wasn’t going to happen. Long story short, when I expressed to the front desk that I wanted to check out, they immediately wanted to just give me a new room. At first I was polite and replied that there were more issues with my “stay” of 45 minutes or so than just the room, referencing the uncomfortable encounter with the maintenance employee, to which they understandably wanted me to wait around to explain this whole thing to their manager who was already tied up with another guest issue. I waited for about 15 minutes or so, before asking if I could just take the manager’s business card or leave my contact info to discuss the problem with her another time.

This was a short trip, and I had already wasted so much of the first day between the shuttle and hotel situation, that I really just wanted to get going. Talking to the manager in this case was obviously important (and I did talk to her over the phone and via email), but ultimately I wasn’t going to be staying there regardless of what she had to say. After checking out, I had to figure out what to do with my bags and where I was going to stay, and still somehow make it to that meet-up. In an attempt to be as efficient as possible, I took an Uber to Epcot and threw my bags in the luggage lockers outside the park. Then while in Epcot after my meet-up I secured a different hotel room. I know this set-up sounds kind of risky, but surely there would be some hotel room available in Orlando and in the worst-case-scenario that there wasn’t I have a couple of friends down there who would have let me stay with them.

Although I assumed it would be a lost cause since there was no availability in the first place, I called Disney to see if anything had opened up for the three nights. There were no rooms for three nights in a row, however there was a room for one night that had opened up at All Star Sports, so I took it. It was for the last day of my trip, and I thought it would be worth it to have the Magical Express back to the airport given that I would be paying for Ubers for the next two days and certainly did not want to deal with the Mears shuttle again. For the first two nights, I checked into the Holiday Inn (the one that’s right across the street from Vista Way if you’ve done the Disney College Program), and I would highly recommend that resort if you need a non-Disney resort to stay at. The rooms were super clean, while I didn’t have time to use it the pool looked really nice, and the cast members there were wonderful.

I know this was a weird first part of a trip report, and I didn’t really even talk about the parks or anything Disney-related yet, but this was really all that happened the first day. I’ll go into some detail about the rest of that trip to Epcot in part 2 of this post, but the bulk of the first day of this trip was really spent figuring out where to change my bandage and where I would actually end up staying. I also wanted to write about this to encourage anyone reading this (especially if you’re traveling alone) to not stay in any situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. I felt like the encounter I had with the maintenance person at the first hotel was extremely inappropriate and it didn’t make me feel safe at all. Despite the fact that this was intended to be a low-budget trip, and I ended up with three different hotel reservations (it took a couple of days to get my refund from the first hotel), every penny spent was worth it to stay in a hotel room that made me feel safe and secure.

I apologize that this was probably the strangest trip report post that has ever been written, and I hope that even with this mess you’ll stick around and join me for part 2!

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