We'll have joy, we'll have fun, we'll have Christmas in the sun...TR Complete!
Hello everyone :wave2:. Welcome to my 3rd trip report. A re-organization of my Photobucket account :badpc: back in November pretty much eradicated the usefulness of my original two TR’s, so hopefully this one will stand the test of time a little better :thumbsup2.
I decided to put this particular trip report on the Orlando Hotels & Attractions board as it encompasses “a little bit of everything”. This trip involved visits to SeaWorld, Aquatica, a smattering of Disney (though no parks.....just downtown Disney and some character dining), Gatorland, an airboat tour, some offsite character dining (Shrek Feast), ICE! and other Christmas events at Gaylord Palms, an Orlando Magic game, and shopping at the Premium Outlets, Florida Mall, and in Kissimmee. We stayed onsite at SeaWorld at the Residence Inn, so there will be lots of details and photos of that property as well.
A good start would be a full introduction, so here goes:
This is our little family :goodvibes.
Being the only female, I bet you have already guessed which one is me. The remaining two are DH (Steve) and DS (Jake), whom I like to affectionately refer to as “my boys”.
Steve and I will celebrate our 20th anniversary this coming May. Doesn’t that just make me sound WAY older than I feel?!?! Jake, our only child, will turn 17 on January 11th. This holiday getaway was our fourth trip to Orlando, and our third trip in 2012 (the others falling in January and August). And believe it or not, it was Jake’s idea to travel for Christmas.
Jake got his first “real” job this past summer in the youth programming department at our local YMCA :cool1:. It turned out to be a job that he absolutely LOVED, and he eagerly took as many hours as they would allocate to him. As a result, he made some serious money from the end of June to the first of September...........adding a substantial amount to his education savings while still being able to afford some of the luxuries he desired (read: “iPhone 5”). One hot and sunny day in early July, we were sitting in the gazebo in our backyard enjoying a lemonade and the warm breeze when he brought up Christmas. Now, one would possibly think this was weird (talking about Christmas in the summer?), and it would be in most places other than at our house. You see, I love, love, LOVE the holiday season and start counting down to Christmas by the end of January at the latest, so Christmas is something we talk about a lot. So perhaps the boy who looks so much like his dad actually takes after his mother a weeny teeny bit after all :rotfl:.
So he says to us......”Now that I’m making so much money at the Y, what are you going to get me for Christmas this year? I mean, I have everything I want and need. There’s nothing left to ask for.”
We laughed and reminded him we had five months to figure it out, so it really wasn’t an immediate concern. But then he said something that had both Steve and I take notice.....the magic words....
“Why don’t we go to Florida for Christmas instead of getting each other a bunch of gifts we don’t need?”.
He didn’t have to ask us twice! :banana: We love to travel, and let’s face it.....the boy is not getting any younger. He’ll soon be off to college and our opportunities will be fewer and fewer (not to mention, we’ll be poorer and poorer!!). The planning began immediately, right there in the shade of the gazebo. Flights were secured within a week and our festive holiday getaway began to take shape. Our dates were set for December 23rd to December 30th, and we would be flying from Buffalo for the first time. These three Canucks were going to trade in our Canadian snow and traditional family dinners for sunshine, Mickey Mouse, and Shamu.
And the countdown officially commenced! :hourglass
It was strange, really, how quickly time passed between that conversation in July and the arrival of our travel date. I guess it was the busy-ness of life, particularly during the September-October-November time period, which made the waiting seem so minimal. Between the starting of a new school year, everyone’s work and sports schedules, leaf-raking, driving lessons, and the normal abnormalness of parenting a busy teen, before we knew it, it was December. With just a day or two before our departure date, Mother Nature decided it was time for the world outside to turn white:
This good ol’ Canadian girl, who should by virture of her homeland be basking in the beauty of our frozen landscape as Christmas descended upon land, cringed inside and thought happy thoughts......of sunshine and green grass and all the warmth that awaited us in Orlando. I obviously was born in the wrong hemisphere.
So glad I found this TR. I have enjoyed your other ones. I am looking forward to see how you liked Christmas at SeaWorld. We are going to SeaWorld this summer. We haven't been in almost 9 years.
ETA: That is a smart boy you raised. I hope my boys will one day say they would rather go to Orlando than get Christmas presents.
I'm looking forward to reading your trip report! We went to Seaworld right before Christmas last year and LOVED it. I refer to Seaworld's Christmas Celebration as Orlando's best kept secret...shhh.;)
Thanks for the kind comment about my boy. I am proud to be his mom. :lovestruc (he will hate the little love emoticon though......hee hee hee.....that's totally uncool)
Christmas DAY at SW was amazing.........Christmas WEEK at SW was CRAZY! But I won't give away too much. More to come in future posts! Stay tuned :listen:.
December 22nd............departure day!
Our flight to Orlando was scheduled to depart at 7:55 am on Sunday, December 23rd, meaning we would have our faces in the sun by 10:30 Sunday morning. Since we opted for the early flight, it was necessary for us to make the trip to Buffalo (a 4-hour drive from home) the day prior and stay at a park-and-fly hotel for the night. Flying from Buffalo saved us a ton (about $700) over flying from our “home” airport in Toronto (which is still 2 hours from home), and was even several hundred dollars cheaper than flying from Syracuse (which is a shorter commute for us than Buffalo, and where we have flown from for the other two trips this year).
We left first in the morning on Saturday, stopped for breakfast at Tim Hortons,
then made our way to Stoney Creek, Ontario (which was right along our travel route) to visit some family members for a short while in the early afternoon. Arriving at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls about 4:30 pm, we were thrilled to find exceptionally short lines and were through customs within 7 minutes. Woot, woot!
For our park-and-fly stay, we chose the Days Hotel Buffalo Airport.
Price was reasonable ($120 which included room, extended parking, tax, breakfast and shuttle) and it had all the amenities we wanted (pool, hot tub) PLUS was right next door to Tim Hortons. Yay for one last good coffee before leaving the cold north for a week! (sorry Dunkin, you just don’t cut it for this family)
The lobby was all decked out for the holidays with a large Christmas tree, a beautifully decorated mantle, and holiday movies playing on the flat screen TV.
Too weary from a day on the road to venture out in the cold for dinner, we opted to grab a meal at the onsite restaurant, the Landing, and we were all pleased (and very pleasantly surprised) at just how good the food was. Really, really good. I’d have snapped a picture of our meals (which we brought back up to our room, so we could kick back and really relax while we ate) but we apparently were hungry enough, we didn’t stop to take one. Whoops.
Waiting for dinner.....
After dinner, it was off to the pool and hot tub to work off our gluttony. Despite the hotel appearing to be quite busy, the pool area was deserted.
The hotel, while far from new, was immaculately clean from the rooms to the common areas. I also want to say that the staff were super nice and very, very friendly. Located right across from the airport, the location was perfect and we were just a five minute drive or less to the airport entrance. I would definitely stay here again.
After a good, long soak in the hot tub,
we arranged for our wake-up call and hit the sack nice and early. With a 7:55 am flight on the weekend before Christmas, we expected the airport to be busy and wanted to be there with lots of time to spare in the event that lines were long at security. Of course, no one slept worth a darn.....we were simply too excited!
Tomorrow........we trade our parkas in for shorts and t-shirts!!!!!!
Sunday, December 23rd......it's showtime!
The wake up call came in at 4-something-or-other in the morning, but quite honestly, it wasn't needed. I was up. Call me a big kid, but I'm just too excited and nerved up to sleep before our travel day.
We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel, which was quite good for a free breakfast. Loved the fact that it started at 4 am :thumbsup2 . They had your standard continental fare, plus some unexpecteds like hard boiled eggs and french toast. Certainly enough to keep us going. And the staff were going around and passing out colouring books and crayons to the little ones to help keep them busy on their flight. I thought that was very kind, and a great gesture on the part of the Days Hotel.
The shuttle was beckoned, and we were at the airport lickety-split.
This was our first time flying from Buffalo, but we found the airport to be a breeze to navigate. Nice and modern and bright and clean. While we anticipated lines at security, we found none and were at our gate in no time.
Those poor people behind us were totally tired out :rotfl: . Definitely not feeling our excitement at all!
As the sun began to rise (albeit slowly), we peeked out at our plane. This was a first for us flying Airtran, and we were kind of shocked at the condition of the plane :crazy2: . It was OLD.....really old.....and in need of a paint job badly. Kind of made me wonder about our safety a bit :worried: but since I'm typing this report, you know we made it there and back without any issues.
We had upgraded to business class (a last-minute splurge at the 24-hour check-in mark) so we were the first to board. We barely had time to get our fannies in the seats before we had beverages in hand:
The flight was uneventful, but we did miss the TV's we are accustomed to on our beloved JetBlue. Happily, the gravol taken one hour before the flight worked wonders on our nervous tummies, and no one was airsick (I have been...uh....known to be a little pukey while in the air on previous occasions). No barf bags needed :worship: which I am sure was a great relief to everyone in the immediate vicinity, not just my boys!
While Jake kicked back and enjoyed his music:
I enjoyed the view from 40,000 feet:
Steve, who sat across the aisle, caught 40 winks and before we knew it, our feet were on southern soil. We had our baggage picked up and the rental vehicle secured (a Ford Edge from Budget) and were driving away within 30 minutes of landing. Yay for priority deplaning with Airtran (a business class perk) and Budget's Fastbreak program which expedites vehicle pick up.
We were finally here!!!!!!!!!!!! :banana: As Jake would say....."Now can we eat?". :rotfl2: Obviously, the shortbread cookies consumed in flight had long since worn off.
So, we are off the plane, in the vehicle, and on our way. After sitting on the tarmac at the airport in Buffalo earlier that dull and dreary morning, waiting as the plane was sprayed down for ice before take-off, how wonderful it was to be in the sunshine and warmth of Florida. It was a glorious Sunday morning, and exactly the welcome weather we hoped for!
We knew we were going to be early......far too early......for check-in at the Residence Inn SeaWorld, as rooms were not guaranteed until 4 pm. We had some time to kill, and the boy was starving (which quite honestly, is nothing new) so we embarked in search of a hearty lunch. Heading in the direction of International Drive, we settled on one of our favourite American lunch places, Friendly’s.
Every vacation should start off with a hearty helping of ice cream! We don’t have this chain up here in Canada, so its always novel to grab a Supermelt sandwich whenever we get south of the border.
By the time lunch was finished, we ducked into the Residence Inn to see what the status of their check-in was, since we were just around the corner from the hotel.
Not surprisingly, we were still well ahead of a time when we could check in. They offered to call us when a room became available, but we assured them we were in no hurry and opted to take the short drive to Kissimmee to do some much anticipated shopping at the Nike Clearance Outlet. Jake was elated, as he was eagerly waiting for a return trip to this particular store since our first visit there in August. This easily killed a few hours, not only for the shopping time, but as a result of the traffic.....whoa! Holy macaroni, did we ever get stuck in some nasty bumper-to-bumper holiday vehicle crowds on our way back to the hotel. While we knew to expect “a lot of traffic”, we sure didn’t expect it to this degree. Luckily, we were in no hurry to get back to the hotel at a certain time, so we rode it out (what choice did we have?) and eventually arrived in one piece. But let me say......the drivers in Orlando were the absolute worst we have ever encountered. I am sure the sheer volume of cars definitely contributed to the problem, but people were desperately impatient. And rude. There was more honking and gesturing (not in a friendly, “sure, I’ll let you in” kind of way either) than you can imagine. So much for peace on earth, goodwill toward men. I was glad Steve was driving because I sure don’t have his nerves of steel behind the wheel.
Arriving back at the hotel, our room was ready!!! But first, some pictures of the property and the common areas.
The check-in desk:
The breakfast area/common room:
We were assigned to the third floor, and had a one bedroom suite.
Our living area:
We really, really liked this property. The staff were incredible (the only exception being one ill-tempered and snotty rep at the Expedia Travel desk.......she was nasty enough on more than one occasion that I soooo wished she had been wearing a name tag. I would have reported her in a heartbeat.). The included breakfast was excellent. The property was in sparkling condition, bright and cheery. The free Quick Queue passes were a Godsend. Our room was sooo spacious and comfortable. They provided Paul Mitchell hair care products. We loved having the option of taking the shuttle to any of the SeaWorld parks. The onsite sport court was great for our basketball-loving son. Laundry facilities were abundant (14 washers and 18 dryers). The pool area was picturesque and well maintained. The whole place just had a very comfortable and “homey” feel. If I could criticize at all...........it would be that the hot tub did not have any bubbles (it was piping hot, but the jets were very weak). I was told by another guest that they are doing a refurb very soon on the hot tub and that this correction is part of their plans, so hopefully that’s the case. All in all, we were exceptionally pleased and very much enjoyed making this our “home away from home”.
After settling in, these three pasty Canadians knew exactly what we needed.........some fun in the Christmas sun. Someone find the swimsuits, we’re off to the pool!!!!!!!!
:wave2: I'm in! You did a lot of things on your trip I'm considering for our next one (ICE! show, airboat tour and of course, shopping!), so I'm looking forward to reading more. Loving all the pics, too. :thumbsup2
Carry on! popcorn::
More to come!!! Stay tuned! :surfweb:
Heading outside to the courtyard and pool area, we were pleased at what we found.
They had a great patio outside the breakfast room. You could bring your breakfast out here on nice mornings, and later in the the day the bar grill opened up, as did the Pizza Hut Express.
The courtyard itself was a nice place to just hang out and enjoy some peace and quiet:
There were multiple barbecues and picnic tables if you wanted to 'cue up some burgers or hot dogs:
The sport court was a hotel favourite among the younger guests, and was lit for night play. Basketballs were available at the front desk.
But we were headed for the pool and hot tub :yay: .
After a long day of travelling and shopping, this was just what the doctor ordered. We swam. We soaked those achy muscles. And we marvelled at the novelty of being able to do so when it was -21 degrees celcius back home. I love Christmas in Florida :santa: .
We opted for a late dinner at another American favourite, TGI Fridays:
Its an Orlando tradition for us, as is Jake's favourite appetizer of fried cheese. Nothing stretches like it!
We rolled our bloated bellies back to the hotel, and happily hit the sack at a reasonable hour. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve day, and we had plans to celebrate it in a rather non-traditional fashion........at a waterpark :woohoo: .
Next update........we're headed to Aquatica! :banana:
All caught up!!!
I'm so glad you had no trouble crossing the border. You just never know what it will be like around the holidays. Buffalo is our "home" airport too and we LOVE it compared to Toronto. It's basically one giant hallway.:rotfl:
I'll have to stay tuned to see if you got the Buffalo Wings! We'll be heading to that airport in 50 loonnnggg days.
Oh Gina, you are a far braver woman than I. It was an Airtran flight where we experienced severe turbulence and suddenly lost altitude. Just dropped. Not long, but long enough the the flight attendants went into the Emergency position ( which is on the ground with their arms over their head incidentally). Everyone around us gasped and shrieked. The beverage cart was directly beside us and I got a pop in my lap and my then 14 year old dd who is pretty calm burst into tears. Yep. Worst flight ever.:crazy2: And they didn't SAY ANYTHING. Nothing. Just got back up, handed me some napkins and went about their business. That was the part that bothered me the most. A friendly "it's ok, we don't plan on letting you die today" would have been nice.
Anyway.. long story short I have to be medicated to fly now:blush: and if I saw some old rickety Airtran plan I'd be walking to Orlando:rotfl2:
Ok.. typed so much that I'm taking over your trip report! Can't wait to see more of your awesome family on your Christmas trip!
ETA) And btw, my 8 year old was looking over my shoulder while I was reading and plans to that with his cheese sticks next time we get them lol.
Noooo, I bookmarked your last trip report to use as research later. LOL - I'll have to see how badly eroded it became.
And wow, did you get any SLEEP? I can hardly believe all you did. I don't know what ICE! is but I'm sure I will find out soon now. And I'm glad to hear you will have lots of details & photos from staying onsite at SeaWorld!
By the way, I told my husband I love your son. He has the right idea! :thumbsup2 Our kids want too much, even after three years of no buying, paying down debit and saving. Though I have to admit our DD13 did learn to work for her money. ;) I keep trying to convince the family to give up Christmas and to go away instead. Our DS8 is on board, but not the girl or hubby. :sad2: Glad to hear Jake found a job he loved!
You must be further north than us. We did not get snow until the 27th. (Durham/Clarington area).
The hotel looks nice and that's a great price. We paid $172 for a 1 night stay and 9 nights of park & fly with the Hampton Inn. Great hotel but I like your price better.
I have to admit with 2 young kids the TVs sold us on JetBlue. If every airline put those in, they might end up with less bored and crying kids.
Gina....you and your husband are very lucky that your child still likes the family vacation. We are also if we pay, but I dont mind that.
One thing that really stood out. I noticed the tshirt that your son had on ...."the swamp". I have that same tshirt as I am a die hard gator fan. Is your son also or did he just like the shirt?
My heart went into my stomach when I read your Airtran experience :crazy2: . OMG! :faint: Its a wonder with your past air travel and cruising issues that you are willing to go anywhere!!!! That would have sickened me on flying FOREVER....I don't like it now, and I've had no real issues thus far (except for airsickness).....but that kind of an experience? Lord, help me. I'd have had a heart attack right in the seat.
We didn't end up getting the Buffalo wings after all :sad: . We decided to get our fannies moving and back across the border to our hotel in Niagara Falls. Good thing, too, because we had an hour wait at the border this time as traffic was backed up all the way over the Rainbow bridge and through the toll booth. Sigh. I knew we couldn't get lucky twice!
Ironically, while we had an amazing time, both DS and DH said they would like to be home for Christmas next year. It was fabulous being in the sunny south, but we missed our families on the actual holiday (weird and all as they are). We also missed going to church on Christmas Eve.....its been a family tradition since I was small and we really, really missed that aspect of the holiday season. And quite honestly, the busy-ness of Christmas week did us in. It was insanity at times. So we may do another trip in lieu of Christmas gifts in future years, but taken at a different time. Your kiddos may come around yet....remember, my son is almost 17. He would not have wanted to trade his Christmas for a vacation at 13 either! (its amazing how much they grown and mature in a few years)
lol, we were VERY busy on this trip, as we are on all trips. But we did manage some down time too :thumbsup2. Admittedly, we like to squeeze as much into our vacations as we can while we are there.....and we are happiest when we are busy (though Jake may argue that one...he likes to sleep in). Sleep? Who needs sleep? We will do that on the plane on the way home :rotfl: .
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