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Old 02-05-2009, 03:26 PM   #1
avic77
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Arrow Vacationing with a tight wallet...Our First trip to Universal

Hello all
I thought i would make a pre trip report to channel some of my excitement about our up coming vacation to Universal and Islands of Adventure. Last year my husband myself and the 3 kids went on our first family vacation ever to WDW! It was a wonderful trip and we really broke the bank going all out with staying onsite, dining etc. That 7 days in Disney ran us about 5k .
This year after I started getting all these special offers I started hinting that we should go again. My wonderful Dh gently told me that right now with the economy in the condition its in along with the uncertainty surrounding his occupation he could not see spending 3k (the amount a WDW special would have cost) on a vacation . However he understood that haveing a family vacation is important and good for all of us so he would let me have $1200 from the income tax return for vacation .
I immediatly set to work looking for a fun family getaway . I wanted to actually GO somewhere not the typical day trips we had been doing for years the local touristy places. In my researching i discovered that we could get Universal tickets for 1/2 the price of WDW tickets and there are always deals on hotels in orlando . So i narrowed our options down to 2 places both about 8 hours drive : Gatlinburg Tn with 6 nights in a cabin with white water rafting, horseback riding, a cavern tour, gem mining, and a few local attractions ( no Dollywood) or 6 nights in a 2 bedroom condo in Orlando with the unlimited 7 days 2 parks Universal and Islands of Adventure tickets.
A family meeting was called and I went over the options. The kids voted and it was settled: We are going to Universal

Next up the cast & crew and the budget
Trip Report Updates:
Part 1: Getting there is half the fun
Part 2: Dinner and Dinos Page 4, post 55 and 56 LOTS of pictures.
1st Day in the Parks: Universal Studios Page 5 post 71 More pictures
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Me DH DD17 DD11 DS9
1) WDW~02/08~POR~P&P party
2) USO/IOA~04/09~Offsite Condo
3) WDW~01/10~FWC
4) WDW/IOA(MNSSHP and WWOHP)~10/11~AKV
5) WDW~Sweet 16!~10/15

Last edited by avic77; 05-14-2009 at 01:11 PM.
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Old 02-05-2009, 04:48 PM   #2
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I'm in......

I find the best way of passing the time is reading some other trip reports
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Old 02-05-2009, 06:52 PM   #3
avic77
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First off i HAVE to post on my trip report that I won one of the free tickets from the superbowl commercial . I dont think I have ever won anything so I am very excited!

Now for the Cast and Crew :

First up, Me, Vic (nickname): I am a 30 something stay at home wife and mother of 3 . I have not worked since marrying my DH nearly 11 yrs ago. I started homeschooling my oldest DD at Christmas break last year and continued this year with adding the 2 younger children as well. Its been interesting and very educational...for me.

Now for the man in charge, DH (he is a privacy freak so i will not post him name): I am not sure what to say about my wonderful DH. He is the love of my life . We met about 13 years ago and have been married 11. He let me be a stay at home mom and has been the sole provider for our family. Dh's idea of a vacation is sitting home watching TV or playing WOW on the computer . But after last years big trip to Disney and seeing how much a real vacation can bring us together and create wonderful memories he has aggreed that having a real vacation is important ! He really didnt "like" Disney and it showed. He has promised to be really good this time though lets just hope there are not alot of walk way blockers. Laster year at Disney this HUGE family of nearly 20 people were walking SLOWLY through AK linked arm and arm blocking the whole street. Dh got ticked after walking behind them for about 5 mins and made his way around them when a side street entersected the one we were all on. A couple members of the family made some comment about slow down it's vacation and my DH snapped :eeks !
DD14, Envy (nickname): What is there to say about a 14 almost 15 year old girl! She thinks she knows it all but she is a good kid. She loves her fish tank and wants to be a chief when she grows up. She will probably ride all the big rollercoasters with her Dad. She is only bummed that we cant go during the Halloween horror nights. She is really into the "gothic" look right now!
DD9, Missy (nickname): The family . She is the sweetheart of the family. Loves all things girly. I expect she will most enjoy Suess land for all its bright colors and fanciful characters.
DS6, Loogey (nickname) : ALL BOY! He is really bummed her cant go on the big coasters and has tried to convience me he could "hold on tight" when I told him he would fall out of the seats He is going to love Simpsons ( a show i seldom allow him to watch but daddy lets him sometimes) and Spiderman.

Now the Budget
Hotel: $330.68 Paid
Tickets: $492.75 Paid (not counting the free one I won on Superbowl Sunday)
Gas $200.00
Food $500.00

DH has been doing the Income taxes and we should get our return by the end of the month . He will let me take $1200 out of the Income tax return but anything over that I will have to pay for myself with my babysitting money.

The Hotel

Last year the 5 of us squeezed into a single room at POR and we were all miserable. The kids kept DH awake with their coughing, toossing and turning, getting up and down for bathroom visits, etc. We were constantly stepping on each other while trying to get dressed. It was not a great way to spend a relaxing fun filled vacation! I knew this time around we need more room. So it was going to be either 2 hotel rooms connected or a 2 bedroom suite condo or townhouse.
I searched prices for hotels over several months that were open for us to take vacation, looking for the lowest rates possible. Thats a huge benefit of homeschooling, you can take vacation just about anytime you want to and with all my research i found the week of April 26th- May 1st to be the lowest rates on area hotels. I knew keeping the hotel cost reasonable was the key to a sucessful budget. So I checked out Hotwire, Priceline, Hotels.com, Easyclicktravel, and many others. I found a site that disclosed Hotwire, Priceline, and easyclicktravel mystery hotels and studied it . I finally choose to use easyclicktravel. They had a good price on a 2 bedroom suite in a mystery hotel that I was able to track as being the Parc Corniche. I read reviews and while it was obviously not a 4 star resort the hotel seemed to be a good reasonable place to stay for a larger family. So they dont have maids everyday to come make your bed, nothing new there, I dont get that at home so I wont miss it. Besides I really prefer NOT to have maids coming in moving my luggage around and "cleaning up" after me. We typically put the DO NOT DISTURB sign on our door and just call for freash towels when we need them. Another big plus for us was that the Parc Corniche suites have kitchenttes in them. Now like any sane woman I dont really care to cook while on vacation but a mini frig just doesnt hold enough sodas and milk for 5 people! So a Kitchentte with a Frig Mircowave and Stove top will be very nice little amenity for us. I can keep bottled water for the parks cold and soda of the evening along with a few snack items for those evening munchies Heck maybe we will eat in the room one night to save a little money . The Parc Corniche also offers a free breakfast, it's very basic just bagels, toast and cereal but that will get us all up and going and save about $25 a day! So at $330.68 for 5 nights I feel like we got a good deal on our hotel
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Me DH DD17 DD11 DS9
1) WDW~02/08~POR~P&P party
2) USO/IOA~04/09~Offsite Condo
3) WDW~01/10~FWC
4) WDW/IOA(MNSSHP and WWOHP)~10/11~AKV
5) WDW~Sweet 16!~10/15

Last edited by avic77; 02-10-2009 at 05:08 PM.
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Old 02-06-2009, 10:18 AM   #4
avic77
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Tickets
I ordered our tickets about 2 weeks ago from Undercover Tourist useing the Mousesaver Newsletter special discount link. I seriously suggest anyone planning a trip to sign up for this newsletter and purchase tickets through UCT.
3 adult 2 park 7 days passes and 2 child 2 park 7 days passes totaled $492.75
I was so proud of myself for preordering and saving some money then I saw the Superbowl commercial and won a free 2 park 7 day pass So now we have a spare ticket. If i return it to UCT I will loose about $12 with the restocking fee and postage . SO I think we will either keep one of the UCT tickets for a future trip or invite my MIL along. Our hotel has a king bed, 2 twin beds, and a queen fold out couch so sleeping arrangments will not be a problem.
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Me DH DD17 DD11 DS9
1) WDW~02/08~POR~P&P party
2) USO/IOA~04/09~Offsite Condo
3) WDW~01/10~FWC
4) WDW/IOA(MNSSHP and WWOHP)~10/11~AKV
5) WDW~Sweet 16!~10/15

Last edited by avic77; 02-10-2009 at 05:13 PM.
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Old 02-06-2009, 09:12 PM   #5
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Old 02-07-2009, 10:18 AM   #6
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Keep it comin'!
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Old 02-07-2009, 12:54 PM   #7
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Looking forward to the rest!
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Old 02-07-2009, 04:57 PM   #8
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Great so far,keep it comming!!
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Old 02-08-2009, 10:54 AM   #9
avic77
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Update:

New cast member DMIL
Last night Dh decided to take us out to dinner. We seldom go out to eat ( I'm a bit frugal about that ) So we called my MIL to see if she wanted to join us. She had plans but stopped by the restaruant to see so for a little bit since it was on the way to where she was headed.
Little background on my MIL: She is a wonderful lady and I love her dearly . She is a missionary to Chilie and is only home for 3 or 4 months a year. She is currently home working on getting support for her next missions trip but due to the economy it is taking longer then it has in the past. So she probably wont be able to return to the missions until Sept or Oct.
When my FIL was alive him and my MIL went on vacations frequently. Disney and USO/IOA was one of their top destinations. But my FIL passed away about 7 years ago after haveing quite a few silent strokes over several months that no one knew about. Due to the strokes he let his life insurance lapse 3 months before he passed away, and allowed his son (my husbands step brother) to max out several credit cards, steal money from the saving account, and pawn some valuable family items . This left my MIL with some serious debt to take care of so this will be a nice treat for her and valuable bonding time for the kids. With our hectic lives we seldom get to see each other and she lives only 45 minutes away on the other side of town.
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Me DH DD17 DD11 DS9
1) WDW~02/08~POR~P&P party
2) USO/IOA~04/09~Offsite Condo
3) WDW~01/10~FWC
4) WDW/IOA(MNSSHP and WWOHP)~10/11~AKV
5) WDW~Sweet 16!~10/15

Last edited by avic77; 02-10-2009 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 02-12-2009, 09:25 PM   #10
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You are doing a great job Looking forward to more
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Old 02-13-2009, 03:11 PM   #11
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Good stuff. Our first trip to Orlando in 1998 we stayed at the Parc Corniche and thought it was a great location.
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Old 02-16-2009, 04:42 PM   #12
avic77
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Nothing much going on right now in the planning phase. Seems there isnt as much planning need for Universal as there is for Disney . I am trying to just relax and wait but I am so excited
But great news I will have $50.00 in gas cards for our trip I used my rewards card when ordering a Memory Foam Matress topper for my bed and with the bonus points from the click through and some we had for DH's business trips we have enough for 2 $25 gas cards.
I am not one of those that can get $200 in groceries for $15.63 (I'd pay one of those people $100 to do it for me though ) But I can usually do ok on a budget I might even end up with another $25 gas card from My Points if they will hurry up and spam me to death again :
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Me DH DD17 DD11 DS9
1) WDW~02/08~POR~P&P party
2) USO/IOA~04/09~Offsite Condo
3) WDW~01/10~FWC
4) WDW/IOA(MNSSHP and WWOHP)~10/11~AKV
5) WDW~Sweet 16!~10/15
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Old 02-20-2009, 12:17 PM   #13
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Enjoying the Post.

Great job on finding the deals Thanks for posting all the info. Very educational for providing real budget options. Love the smiley's
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Old 02-23-2009, 08:52 PM   #14
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i'm reading along also and enjoying your pre trippie.

you are a good writer.

looking forward to more!
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Old 02-23-2009, 08:54 PM   #15
macraven
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Vic, check out orlandocoupons.com

you can find some decent 20% off coupons for places in florida which would include orlando and city walk.
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