True to form, it was Tuesday night and, despite my best intentions, I was still packing for the early flight on Wednesday morning. Part of the problem was my own procrastination, but the other part was early December weather in Orlando. One of the things I discovered about packing for a December trip is that the predicted temperatures for a five day trip ranged from the lower 80s to upper 40s. So I essentially had to pack for every possible weather condition, especially since I had plans that ran the gamut, from 7 a.m. through 1 a.m.

I finally got all of the clothes packed by about 10:30 p.m., and was in the midst of packing the electronics when Jonathan came downstairs saying that he’d had a nightmare and couldn’t sleep. (This will come back to haunt me in another 18 hours or so). I took him back upstairs, tucked him into bed, and cuddled with him a bit, until he could calm down and get back to sleep. I finally finished packing at around midnight. With a 6:00 a.m. flight and the prospect of icy roads, the alarm had me awake and moving by 3:30 a.m. The roads ended up not being too bad, and I pulled in to the long-term parking lot by 4:30 a.m. A couple of minor delays at the Kansas City airport, and I was on my way in plenty of time to catch my connecting flight in Nashville.

And thus began the interminable wait. This was the downside of booking an award flight. If I wanted to arrive in Orlando before 7:00 p.m., I had to put up with a four-hour layover in Nashville. Never was I so glad that I’d added the tethering to my AT&T iPhone plan. Turns out the Nashville airport (at least in the Southwest Airlines terminal) has no WiFi. So I sat in a comfy chair with a my computer plugged in to the convenient electrical outlet and followed #2011_Reunion on Twitter – watching people take off after me and arrive in Orlando before me.

It was also while waiting for this connecting flight that a bad thought crossed my mind and I dug into my carryon bag to confirm my fear — I had managed to forget the charger and spare battery for my camera! Ugh. THAT’S what I was about to grab last night when Jon came downstairs complaining about a nightmare!! Well, nothing to do about it until I got to Orlando. Finally, finally, it was time for me to board my connecting flight, and I was on my way.

I landed in Orlando, picked up my checked bag surprisingly quickly, and headed to pick up that Hotwire rental car. For the second time in a row, the Dollar Rental Car personnel showed their lack of ethics. Last time, I watched them completely hard sell a guy a few people in front of me, who was clearly inexperienced with car rentals, into paying for full insurance coverage (they spent a full five minutes pitching him, while the rental pick-up line grew). This time, the desk agent tried to upsell me from my Wild Car. She quoted me the upsell (remember, I was only paying $14/day for this rental) as $25. She didn’t tell me that it was an additional $25 per day until I asked. She insisted that, if I didn’t take the upsell, I’d be stuck with a Crown Vic or a Grand Marquis. Of course, when I got to the Wild Car line, there was a brand new Ford Edge SUV in the row. I even double-checked to make sure, and yep, the Ford Edge was available as a Wild Car. I really hate being lied to by sales people.

I immediately plugged in the GPS, and tried to pull out slowly to give the GPS a chance to figure out where it was. I was excited to get to Pop Century and get checked in, but I decided to first try to find a battery and charger for my camera. Turns out that my Nikon D50 is the oddball of the Nikon line, and takes a slightly different charger than just about every other Nikon dSLR. As a result, I came up empty at Best Buy and Ritz Camera (and both checked stock at other stores and came up empty). Just as I was walking back to the car empty-handed from Ritz, my amazing wife called and volunteered to send the battery and charger I’d left at home to me at Pop Century. So I breathed a sigh of relief and headed to Pop Century.

Check-in at Pop went flawlessly – it turned out that there was about a $30 credit leftover on my account, probably from back in September! And I had some cool WDW Today Reunion schwag waiting for me at check-in too. I gave the check-in folks the heads up that I was expecting a package to arrive in the morning, and headed around to my room in the 80s section of Pop Century. I had about a half-hour to relax before meeting up with other solo travelers to WDW Today Reunion at the Tambu Lounge at the Polynesian. The meet was organized by fellow Disney-fan Jeff Covello, a/k/a WDWSoloMeets on Twitter.

The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, as I was EXHAUSTED from the day of travel. But I did meet some nice people at the Tambu Lounge Meet (and took the picture that’s at the beginning of this post). I’ll talk more about the people I met as this trip report goes on, because the highlight of this trip really ended up being the opportunity to enjoy Walt Disney World with a great group of fellow Disney fans. I got a Grown-Up Grilled Cheese sandwich for dinner from Captain Cook’s (highly recommended, it was excellent), enjoyed a couple of beers at the Tambu Lounge, caught the tail end of the Electric Water Pageant (a personal favorite) from the Poly Beach and watched Holiday Wishes over the Magic Kingdom. And I was VERY glad that I was wearing both a sweatshirt and my denim jacket, ’cause it was COLD by the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Back at Pop Century, I set an early alarm. Coming up next – Rope Drop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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