09 February 2014

Orlando and 3 million miles

Normally, I wouldn't write up a quick trip to Orlando since I've been so many times.  However, there were a couple of things special about the trip.  First, ever since Walt Disney World first opened in the early 1970's, I've always wanted to stay at The Contemporary Resort.  Second, this was the trip that somewhat unexpectedly put me over the 3 million lifetime miles traveled on United.

For this trip, I decided to book a room there.  There was a decent winter discount rate, so I splurged a little and reserved a room on the Atrium Club Level with Park View.  When you make plans to stay at a Disney Resort properties, there are now all kinds of things that happen prior to the trip.  There's a bit of communications as they encourage you to plan your time.  They just switched to a FastPass+ system, which eliminated paper reservations for popular rides.  Instead, using your registered ticket card or "Magic Band" and the My Disney experience website, you make your plans and link them together all under your account and with other people traveling with you. So, in one place, I could see all the hotel, dining, and FastPass reservations made.  They even send a Disney flash drive to show a video of how to do the advance planning.

It all sounded very nice, and I was looking forward to this trip to see how this all would work.  It began with the arrival in Orlando and getting on the "Magical Express" bus (the complimentary airport transfer service offered when you stay at a Disney Resort property).  They scanned my ticket voucher at three different locations before I boarded the bus.  When I arrived at the hotel, supposedly someone was supposed to meet the bus and process the passengers before even walking into the hotel.  However, I did not see any such person and just walked in.  I found the on-line check in desk.  This apparently threw them off as it took a little time to process my arrival and issue my electronic room key (that would be enabled through the "Magic Band" that I had been issued  a week prior.  Moreover, when I was done, they had to find someone who would escort me upstairs.

After several minutes, someone came (I think he was the person who was supposed to process me at the bus arrival point) and escorted me upstairs.  He was supposed to leave with the Atrium Club Level staff to get my key issued.  They were busy with other customers, and I said that I had already been issued a room key and suggested we just go try it.  We walked down to the room and I let myself in.  I found out later that my actual check-in package was at the Atrium Club Concierge desk, as I went there a few minutes later to get the details on the lounge access hours.  So, the whole check-in process wasn't quite as smooth as it should have been.

The room itself was nice, with a perfect view of the Magic Kingdom.

I had a great sunset view on this first evening off the balcony.  This was also a great place to watch the evening fireworks over the Magic Kingdom.
The lounge was also nice, with nice hot and cold offerings in the evening.  It's not too big, but roomy enough most of the time, as long as I went early.
The hotel was very convenient for the activities my friends and I had planned for the short stay.  For our regular annual visit, we normally do not stay at an official Disney Resort because the cost is so much more.  But for a short stay with special rates, it worked out perfectly for the trip.  Our two dinners were nearby at the Wilderness Lodge (Artists' Point) and Contemporary Hotel (California Grill just upstairs), two of our favorite dining experiences.

As for passing the 3 million mile milestone, at the end of 2013, I estimated that I would pass it in February on my way back from Cambodia.  However, some last minute work trips and this trip to Florida had accelerated my progress, which I had stopped tracking after making the estimation.  There was no fanfare or special tweets from United.  Since it takes 3 days for United to post miles from United travel, I had to wait until midweek after my return to see it officially.  The website updated my designation in all the right places.  However, it took the Mileage Plus folks about 10 days before I received an email congratulating me on the milestone.

So the question I get now from my friends is "What's next?."  I don't have an answer yet.  The 3 million mile goal has been the main aspiration for the last several years.  I had not thought of what I might put in its place once I achieved that level.  I'll have to think about it.  There is a 4 million mile milestone, but I'm not sure that is reasonably achievable, since I don't have to fly United at all now to keep 1k status (I really did focus on flying on United metal as much as possible).

But, despite the title of this blog, I will continue to write about my travels post-3 million miles.  We shall see what ends up coming next.

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