Reunion 2011 | Super Joe Pardo: Small Business Strategist & More

Reunion 2011


Paul decided to join Melissa and I, on our first trip to Disney World for Reunion and December to Remember! None of us really knew what to expect, but I already knew in my mind that we were going to have an amazing time. There is so much to talk about, but for this trip report I really would like to just emphasize the important points. We met so many awesome people in the 4 days we were down at the world, so recounting every conversation might be a bit tough, but I will try my best.

We got to the airport gate about 2 hours before the flight was supposed to leave. So, we decided to take in a little Philly classic, Chickie and Pete’s at the terminal. I had a chicken cheesesteak, and ordered a combo fry (sweet potato, and crab fries). We wound up having so much extra fries that we wound up taking it on the plane with us.

Once we finally got to our magical express bus, it left within a few minutes of us sitting. The bus driver was one of the most lively ones that I have ever experienced, definitely knows how to get a bus pumped to head to the world. Our stop, The Beach Club, was the second to last stop for the bus, and once off a girl who walked us up to the front counter to get us checked in greeted us. This time, I forgot to do the online check in, and since I didn’t have the info on my phone I wasn’t able to do it on the bus. Fortunately for us there was no line, and it was a mostly quick experience.

Unfortunately for us, apparently there was a problem with the billing of the room so it showed in the computer that we still owed 500$+. This was a bit concerning but they let us into the room thanks to MEI Mouse Fan Travel’s handling of the situation. The second issue popped up when I asked the girl checking us in, if there were any goodie bags waiting for us. She replied that there was nothing in the system showing that there were. The only reason I knew that goodie bags would be waiting was because I seen someone on twitter mentioning how excited they were about their bag when we were getting off the plane.

When we got up into the room, we got ahold of someone at MEI and they said they would talk to Annette (manager of customer relations), and they would get back to us. Which at that point I was comfortable knowing that it would be taken care of, so we decided to head to EPCOT and walk around before our [8:30] reservations at Teppan Edo. But first we needed to go take the plunge and buy annual passes!

The process down at the guest relations was pretty painless, and we even talked Paul into saving money in the long run and getting one too! As any big Disney fan knows, four days just isn’t enough to get all of the magic in, especially at the price they charge for a four-day park hopper. Once Mickey had gotten done shaking us upside down for every last dime in our pockets we walked over to EPCOT to purchase our Tables in Wonderland card.

We wound up walking all the way down to Mexico from the International Gateway to hang out in La Cava Del Tequila for some drinks before dinner. Paul and Melissa ordered some margaritas, which are supposed to be the best on property. Eventually, Paul’s cousin Alyssa, who is in the college program right now, met us before we walked back down to Japan for dinner.

When we got to Japan, we found out that it was a bit early for dinner, so Paul did some shopping around the pavilion, while Melissa and I hung around outside. Eventually we were able to get our name in to sit down, even though we were still 20 minutes away from our reservation. Shortly after, I got a phone call on my phone from someone in North Carolina; it was Annette Owens of MEI Mouse Fan Travel. I joked about how awesome it was having a celebrity on my cell phone. We were able to sort out the issue with the payment of the room, as well as the goodie bag mix up. She assured me that the bag would be in our room when we got back to it, and that I should text her if it isn’t. I was satisfied with the answer, so I let her go and we eventually were seated for dinner.

Dinner was very good as usual, though it was pretty disappointing when I learned that there were no AP or TiW discounts_. It didn’t really matter because was very good, and still left us room for some Beaches and Cream back at our hotel. Paul’s sister, Rachael and her fiancé George, stopped by with their friend to hang out for a little while since they just moved in Florida about six months ago.

When we got back to the hotel, we decided to stop up in the room so they could all check it out. We were expecting a goodie bag to be in the room, but unfortunately it wasn’t. So I texted Annette, and she replied right back that she was on her way to get it straightened out.

So, around 10 PM we headed downstairs to go get some ice cream at Beaches and Cream. On the way passed the check in counter, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a well dressed lady at the counter who sort of resembled Annette. I decided that if it was her, that she would text me when she was ready for me to come get our bag. Sure enough once we got our name put in for Beaches and Cream, I got a text from Annette to meet her at the counter. So, I ran back to the counter to meet her. It was really awesome getting to know someone you listen to all of the time; is just as nice in person as their personality would lead you to believe. After about 30 minutes of chatting, my phone was ringing because our table was ready. Unfortunately Annette couldn’t join us for ice cream due to having to get to bed so she could be awake for all of the things she had going on at 5 AM.

At Beaches and Cream I had a No Way Jose, which is always a great way to finish off a night. Sadly, only a few of us were able to finish the desserts we got. Paul, Melissa and I decided that it was best to get to bed early and not hang out at Jelly Rolls or Atlantic Dance Hall as we had a long day ahead of us. So we departed from the rest of our group so we could get ready for bed.

We woke up around 6 AM so we could start getting ready to head to Animal Kingdom to get the 4 major attractions out of the way. When we got to the park there weren’t many people,so we were able to walk on Everest from ropewalk. Shortly after, we crossed the park to walk right on to the safari; I was able to get some really nice photos on this trip. It definitely seems like the animals are much more active in the morning rather than at night. I also am pretty sure that it seemed like some of the driving path has changed, with way more animals along the way.

After getting off the safari, we had some time left before Finding Nemo started so we went and did Dinosaur which was also a walk on. So once we were done the ride; that is no longer offered by a generous grant by the McDonalds Corporation. We headed over to see Finding Nemo the musical and walked right in and had our choice of seating. It was Paul’s first time seeing the show, and he really enjoyed it! IT’s a shame that there wasn’t more to keep us in the park longer, because by 11 we were heading to the bus to get to EPCOT for our first Reunion meet up at the American pavilion.

While walking into EPCOT, I was looking on twitter and saw that Len Testa was holding a meet at La Cava Del Tequila. So, we decided instead of heading to do some rides that we would walk over to Mexico and meet up with him. Len recognized me which I thought was pretty impressive since I haven’t seen him since we met in August, even though we were supposed to meet up for lunch in NYC, but didn’t.

Len was buying everyone two rounds of shots, appetizers (that were very good), as well as margaritas for anyone who wanted one. This was the first meet that I passed out my Occupy Stupid Judy stickers, in order to stop the podcast from ceasing operation after their one-thousandth episode. The stickers seemed to go over pretty well with the 30 or so people hanging out in the cave of tequila. Paul and Melissa seemed to enjoy themselves as much as I did, so instead of going to do some rides before the Skagway meet at Spaceship Earth; we decided to go with everyone to the A Tribute to all Disney Podcasts but mostly WDW Today at the American pavilion.

Shortly after, we ran into some really great people who we seemed to hang out through a lot of the meets throughout the weekend. I don’t want to start naming names just in case I forget anyone, but you all know who you are! I was able to get introduced to Mike Newell next, which was really awesome because I really appreciate all of the hard work that he puts in for the show. We discussed his daily routine and it’s pretty ridiculous, the lack of free time this man must have. While talking with Newell, he went ahead and introduced me to the infamous Lou Mongello! Newell was talking to Annette, trying to make a bet, to get Annette to put one of the OSJ stickers on Mongello’s butt. Ultimately Newell did it himself, and I wound up getting to keep the sticker, maybe an auction item for charity some day?When we got there, I quickly noticed that a lot of people were already wearing the OSJ stickers. I was pretty impressed with the amount of people who were wearing them. Melissa pointed out that it looked like Mike Scopa was sitting off to the side with someone, so I seen it as an opportunity to go and introduce myself. After talking with Scopa for a little bit, he offered up tickets for Sunday night’s Candle Light Processional, which was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Sadly, we had to decline as our plane was leaving at 8 PM on Sunday.

Shortly after, I seen Matt Hochberg so I went over to say hi, which was nice and led me to find some other really cool people, again you know who you are! At this point, Rachael had finally made her way back to come hang out with us for the rest of day. So, someone decided it was time to get some more to drink before headed over to Spaceship Earth.

We stopped off in Morocco for some slushi type drinks before strolling down to the Skagway Meet. When we got there, people were coming up to me asking for OSJ stickers and almost everyone had one at that point. 
The first circle of people we were hanging out with, had re-gathered to discuss football among other things. We took a big group photo before getting in line, which went surprisingly well for having so many people.

After our ride on Spaceship Earth,
we had to head to the Italy pavilion for our Via Napoli reservations. Dinner was very good, though I don’t remember which personal sized pizza I got, I was very happy the quality for a second time eating there! Afterwards, we headed back to our room for a nap and to get some heavier clothes on for the cooler night ahead.

After the nap, we killed some time by heading over to Mexico to ride the boat ride in the pavilion. I sear they stack the front of the boat to scare you into thinking the boat is going to sink. The whole time I was leaning into Melissa and Rachael to keep the boat from tipping too much to one side. After we got off the boat, it was time to head Italy pavilion to get our wristbands for the Illuminations dessert party. Once inside, the four of us got a table, but while I was up getting some food I ran into Hochberg and we got to talk. I asked to meet his wife and kid, so we walked up to the front table and were talking for a while. I also got to meet Fred Hazelton, and we talked about touring plans and the Test A Touring Plan meet the next morning. Eventually, I called Paul, Melissa and Rachael over to join us.

After Illuminations was over, we said our good byes and hustled our way over to Fantasia Gardens. The lady running the cash register was upset with our OSJ stickers, because her name was Judy. Once I explained what the stickers were about, I was able to get a picture her. We played a tough round of golf in the garden, where Paul emerged the winner of the four of us. After, we walked back to the Beach Club and decided to call it a night because it was late, and we had to be at the Magic Kingdom by [7:30] AM for the touring plan meet.

The next morning we woke up around [5:30] AM so we could start getting everything together so we could catch the bus to the Magic Kingdom. Paul and Melissa were a bit upset that they didn’t get to have breakfast right before running around the parks. Fred Hazelton was the savior of the morning with half a bagel and a croissant! Just as well, they handed out bags of energy filled snacks to keep us going!

We were asked to get into groups of 4 or 5, so I shouted out that I had my group of 3. Which prompted Jennifer Von Hoffman (of, which at the time I did not know) to ask if she could join our group and we gladly accepted. When they called out to everyone, asking for someone who thinks they knew how to tour really well, I quickly threw my hand up and announced that I wanted it. As it turns out, the touring plan challenge was to complete ten rides in two hours (of park opening), but the catch was we couldn’t use any tools to get it all done. Jennifer and I got right to work figuring out which order we could conquer the rides.

Here is a picture of the touring plan we wound up making. It allowed us to get a ride on the TTA, which I didn’t realize is a ten minute ride, and we still finished three minutes before 10 AM. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that we had time for a two minute bathroom break! I love having to think on my feet, as well as a good challenge, so this meet was something that I was really looking forward to being a part of!

One thing I do have to mention is that when I went to get the fast passes for Space Mountain. I accidentally left my annual pass in the fast pass machine and ran off to meet up with my group. It wasn’t till we were on the TTA later in the day, that I realized it was missing. I checked on my phone, and seen on twitter that someone posted on there that my pass was sitting with a cast member for me to get. I was so happy that someone would be nice enough to not only give it to a cast member, but to post it on twitter for me to know! So, thank you again Kurt!

Since the meet ended at 10 AM in front of the Carousel of Progress, it was nice that the next meet was at [10:30] AM on the Carousel of Progress! Got to meet some more really awesome people, including one that lives right around the corner from us! The WDW Today crew passed out props for the meet, as well as response scripts for the show! We wound up getting a copy of scene four, and had a lot of fun calling out the responses put together by Len and Laurel!

We decided to head over to the Laugh Floor for a quick show before heading to Pecos Bill’s for lunch. Paul had never done the Laugh Floor and actually enjoyed it as much as Melissa and I did. We did notice that some of the jokes had changed up, which was nice to see it continues to evolve, as it should.

After some taco salads at Pecos Bill’s, we stopped by Aloha Isle for some dole whips. We then started heading towards the monorail to ride over to the Contemporary resort. So, we could catch a bus to Downtown Disney for some shopping. At this point we were all pretty tired and getting a bit cranky from the lack of sleep.

Before deciding to head back to the room for a nap, we stopped off at Baby Cakes for some gluten free snacks! I had the brownie cupcake, and while I can’t say that I’ve ever had anything like it. It was very good and I definitely plan to frequent more often! I asked for Emily when we got there, but she was off, so I asked if I could leave a page of OSJ stickers for her. Finally after we were done eating, we went back to our room for a nap.

We woke up around 5 PM, got our stuff together and headed to the studios for some dinner. We were hoping to get into the Sci-Fi Dine-In, but wouldn’t been able to make the Fantasmic Dessert Party meet. So, we wound up eating at the Backlot Express, which is a pretty good choice for something other than French fries and burgers. I definitely recommend trying the grilled veggie sandwich.

When we got over to Aerosmith I went on an OSJ sticker-giving spree, I didn’t want to have many left by the end of the weekend. After giving out several sheets of stickers, I ran into Scopa and Michelle Scribner-MacLean and we got to chat for a bit. We wound up talking right through Fantasmic and up until we arrived at our surprise location of Playhouse Disney for even more surprises!

Paul, Melissa, and I sat together up right in front of the stage and enjoyed the continuation of desserts, including beef on a stick. Not quite sure where beef on a stick is a dessert but it was good nevertheless. We got to take a picture with Mickey and Minnie, as well as the chance to win surprise gift bags and centerpieces.

They had given out all of the bags and all but one centerpiece, which Melissa wound up winning what we thought, was the last one. When suddenly, Annette came through with one more centerpiece, which they used the ticket they already had pulled. So, it was down to the last prize, which is a six-night stay for four people with hoppers and dining plan. Beci had everyone stand up, and then sit down if your number didn’t coincide with the ones she was reading off slowly. It came down to just a couple of us left, Paul and I were both left in the group. I remember Len looking over at me and saying, “You seriously have all of these numbers?” I laughed and said yes, just before my number was called.

At this point I kind of blanked out, I don’t remember too much. I was so excited but couldn’t scream because I didn’t have much of a voice left as it was. Scopa was telling everyone about how he just spent all that time talking with me before, during and after Fantasmic. I think Melissa and Paul were more excited at the moment than I was, I didn’t really know what to say. I got up on the podium, and thanked everyone for being there because if no one showed up, there wouldn’t be the opportunity to win. I was told later, that what I said made a lot of people happy as I guess my reaction wasn’t exactly telling at first. I was just in awe of everything that had just happened. Getting to talk with one of my favorite Disney heads for so long, and then winning a prize of that magnitude was just shocking.

After we wrapped up the gathering, we were escorted back for a surprise ride on Toy Story Midway Mania. This turned out to be really great because we didn’t have to wake up super early to be at the studios for fast passes for it. It enabled us to head out to the Bye Bye Babycakes meet in the morning, as well as the run! Paul had never rode this before, so it was a lot of fun to watch him try to master the rope pull. I wound up having the highest score in the care, but was still very low compared to the leader board.

We were escorted to the Osbourne Lights, where Beci, Annette, Scopa, Newell, Len, and Matt flicked a switch to turn on the lights. It was pretty amazing to be able to enjoy the lights! I told Newell the only thing missing was a football, which would’ve completed the absurdness of being there with so few people. We even got some help in finding where the cat was hiding, which was neat since I had never seen it before. Newell took some great pictures of us, and we even got introduced to Steve Barrett! He was very nice to talk to, and even took the time to take a picture with us!

After we left the park, we started the long walk back to our hotel, but decided to stop in at the Atlantic Dance Hall for some drinks and to relax as everyone was wired from me winning. None of us had ever been in the ADH, it was pretty neat though the DJ was pretty lacking. As was the crowd, for a Saturday night there weren’t many people in there, if the people for a wedding weren’t there. It was pretty much free after party for wedding party, as there is no cover.

When we got back to the room, I decided to stay up so I could watch Master of the Mix Season 2 on BET. It was rerunning the new episode at 3 AM, so I only had to stay up for an hour or so. I stayed up sketching out this trip report so I wouldn’t forget anything. I finally went to sleep at [3:30] AM.

6 AM came very fast, as I wasn’t able to sleep much. I woke up, not feeling that well, but after some time in the bathroom I was able to compose myself enough to get ready to head out for the 5k run with Paul wasn’t feeling all that well either but he got up and went out with me. When we walked up to the bakery on the boardwalk to meet everyone, Scopa had a circle of people he was telling about the night before. He called out to us, saying that he was so happy that we wound up coming out for the run, and he was just getting to the part where we were talking the whole night. It’s pretty awesome being introduced to someone you are a fan of, but it’s really cool when you get introduced to a bunch of people by a person you are a fan of! Just as Scopa started talking, I got star struck again, because I noticed that Deb Wills was right behind Scopa. So I walked around the circle of people and introduced myself to Deb, I went to shake her hand and she reached out for a hug. It was really cool to meet so many Disney community legends in one weekend!

I was only able to get 2.7 miles in before I was just too wiped to go any further. After everyone made it back to the bakery, we lined up for some breakfast. Paul and I sat down right up against the railing; Scopa and Michelle asked if they could join us. We talked about a bunch of different topics, both show and non-show related.

Melissa, Paul and I got our room all cleaned up and ready to go. We checked out of the room, got our carry-ons checked at the desk, and our bags tagged and sent to the airport. Hopped on the next bus to Downtown Disney for the Bye Bye Babycakes meet.

When we got there, we talked to some of the people we met on the first day of meets, which was nice. We got to meet Emily who was so happy to meet me since she was so jealous of seeing people with the OSJ stickers, and was very excited when she came to work and found a page of them left for her! We got to try some cookie, which was really tasty, and hard to tell it was vegan. So, before we left I wound up leaving Emily with 4 of the 5 pages of stickers I had left. Said good bye to everyone and we were on our way to the studios to do some more rides before we had to be back at the hotel for Magical Express pickup at 5 PM.

Once at the studios, we had reservations at 50’s Prime Time that we wanted to make. So we had to wait about twenty minutes to be seated with Byron! Check out my August 2011 trip report to learn more about Byron. He told us he actually remembered Melissa and I, and we had a good time messing with him. This time I went with something different, the potpie and it was delicious!

After lunch, we grabbed fast passes for Star Tours then watched the Muppets. When we got out of the Muppets it was only a few minutes before we could use our fast passes for Star Tours. Shortly after we went over to Aerosmith, which had a forty-five minute wait according to Lines. We decided to try our luck at the single rider line, which took just about as long as standby. While standing in line Matt Hochberg, Marissa, and some other reunioners passed us in the standby line.

On our way out of the park it started to rain, but the heavy rain held off long enough for us to get back to the Beach Club. And so ended our first of many trips in the coming year with our new annual passes.

Thank you for taking the time to read my trip report of Reunion/December to Remember 2011.

Super Joe Pardo
Super Joe Pardo
A sixth-generation business coach who works with owners to help them build their business for their lifestyle. Click here to learn more about my story!

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