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Old 02-12-2011, 11:08 AM   #1
coastgirl
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Updated TR from 2011: First trip to Universal and Seaworld

(This very old thread is resurfacing because I finally finished the trip report 2.5 years later! This started out as sort of pre-trip report/live trip for my Canadian friends. I put in a bunch of photos on the last page. http://www.disboards.com/showthread....2655822&page=3)

We are here at the Springhill Suites in Manchester NH, with a good hour of nothing to do...kids are climbing the walls. Our flight is about 3.5 hrs away and we aren't getting the shuttle to the airport for a while yet. The bags are ready, boarding passes printed--it's really, really weird to have extra time at this point.

We finally ordered our tickets from Undercover Tourist on Wed, and dh and I decided to get the flex passes, the value is just irresistible, given we wanted to do Universal and IoA, and maybe meet a friend (another Halifax resident!) at Seaworld. We'll pick them up in Orlando Monday before we hit the parks.

Thursday was a pretty normal day, I worked a half-day, the kids went to school not knowing what was coming. After school they came home to find a letter from Hogwart's for each of them on the windowsill with a cut-out of Hedwig. DD is 7, and had some trouble with the cursive writing on the letter, took a while to puzzle it out. They were excited with the letters, but didn't really "get it" yet. We said, "we're going to Florida. Now." They started to scream and run in circles through the living room/dining room/kitchen until we stopped them. It was GREAT.

We left home Thursday at 4, and got as far as Saint John for a night at Nana's. We had a little snow on the way, but just a flurry or two to make us nervous. Supper arrived in a McD's bag in Truro. Had a nice little visit with Nana, and a surprise early b'day cake for dd, who turns 8 while we're away. Friday morning required a stop at the Dollar store for batteries for the remote for the car dvd player--it was a Big. Deal. during the 4 hours on THursday night when the remote didn't work. Ungrateful offspring. And a stop at Timmie's and we were off.

Because the weather was good, we took the Airline Route, Hwy 9, to the I-95. We left SJ at 10 am Atlantic and made it to that big, new border crossing in the middle of nowhere around 11. No line, a grumpy guard who didn't give us grief except via his complete lack of a sense of humour. I tell you, I looked at all those empty bays by the inspection station and thought "oh, they're not busy. That could be bad." But despite the forgotten illegal grapes in the back row, we were through and on our way. Hit the 95 around noon Eastern, and a straight shot down the I-95. Perfect driving weather. Perfect.

Pulled over around 2 to do my online check in for our SW flight. PC mobile warned me it would be really, really expensive to use my browser outside Canada, but the Starbucks at the rest stop DIDN'T have wifi, so teeny screen had to do. I'll have to check my balance, but the SW website is clean, so the download shouldn't be too awful. (Famous last words?) Our boarding #s are in the middle of group B, so I'm a bit worried about that, but hey, it's a direct flight. How bad can 3 hrs in a plane be?

Anyway, we got to Manchester right around 5 pm, not even dark. Really great service at the Springhill Suites, and we are practically on airport property. Thanks for the tip, Ted! Supper at a very handy Olive Garden. Dh and I really appreciated an adult beverage after 8 hrs in the car, and the kids loved the teeny hotel pool before bed. (They really needed to stretch their legs!)

...So now I only have 90 minutes to kill! The kids are getting owly, they are very excited, and we've been looking at you tube of the parks, and they've already watched two of the Harry Potter movies. Tonight we will get to our villa. Can't wait for the kids to see their OWN pool. Tomorrow we plan to take it easy and settle in, and go to a citrus u-pick.

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with dh, ds 14, and dd 11

1st trip May/June 06
Jan/Feb 07, same crew at CBR. DCL Magic Eastern Dec 07 CSR Sept 2009
Universal/WWoHP in Sunset Lakes villa Feb 2010 Same again Aug 2013 in Emerald Island villa
PTR/TR Without the Mouse Round 2
TR: First visit to Universal/SeaWorld Feb 2011

Last edited by coastgirl; 06-04-2013 at 11:25 AM. Reason: updating
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Old 02-12-2011, 01:32 PM   #2
mbb
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Fun!!!!!
Love the kids screaming through the house! LOL!

....batteries for the remote...sigh
Remember when we only had 3 TV channels?
And it was TORTURE to have to get up, walk over to the TV, and turn the dial...then adjust the rabbit ears because CTV didn't come in as good as CBC?

...back from Memory Lane...!! LOL
So glad you had a great pre-trip through NB and NH.

Have fun! And keep us posted!!

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Old 02-12-2011, 03:04 PM   #3
kitntrip
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The snow always makes me nervous when travelling, especially after the winter we've had. What are flex tickets? I haven't heard of those before...
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Old 02-13-2011, 07:23 AM   #4
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Keep the live report coming! You've picked an awesome weather week. All sun and getting up to 79 this week! So jealous. Can't wait to hear all about WWoHP as we're going there too.
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Old 02-13-2011, 09:02 AM   #5
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I'm really glad you decided to share with us.

Interested to find out how you made out with SW. We have never flown with them. Doing our second trip from Portland this year and Manchester isn't that much further...
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Old 02-13-2011, 10:48 AM   #6
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Thanks for sharing. I'm looking forward to following your trip. I don't think I could ever keep a trip a secret!!!
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Old 02-14-2011, 03:22 PM   #7
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Subbing, looking forward to more.

Our trip is in Sept/Oct, and I'm trying to find a way around those data roaming fees (maybe they have a US data plan?), since my wife just got an iPhone and really wants to use the different WDW apps while we're there.

I remember my first trip to Florida, we drove from Ontario. Took 3 days. All I had was colouring books and travel games, no fancy portable DVD player. Ungrateful offspring indeed :-)
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Old 02-14-2011, 08:35 PM   #8
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Aww...aren't you all sweet?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mbb View Post
Fun!!!!!
Love the kids screaming through the house! LOL!

....batteries for the remote...sigh
Remember when we only had 3 TV channels?
And it was TORTURE to have to get up, walk over to the TV, and turn the dial...then adjust the rabbit ears because CTV didn't come in as good as CBC?
LOL! CBC had a bigger budget than CTV.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kitntrip View Post
What are flex tickets? I haven't heard of those before...
Orlando Flexpass, gets you in to both Universal parks, Aquatica, Sea World, and Wet and Wild. Unlimited admissions for 14 consecutive days (multiparks in one day are fine). For a longer trip, it's a really good deal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mtmbyck View Post
Keep the live report coming! You've picked an awesome weather week. All sun and getting up to 79 this week! So jealous. Can't wait to hear all about WWoHP as we're going there too.
It's been COLD! It got up to mid-70s today, but it was 40 freaking degrees at 8:30 am. The kids have used the pool a couple of times, but it's only for the pre-adolescent without working nerve endings. The furnace in the house is NOT up to the task! But yes, it's waaay better than Halifax, and it's getting warming as the week goes on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pooksma View Post
Interested to find out how you made out with SW. We have never flown with them. Doing our second trip from Portland this year and Manchester isn't that much further...
I heart Southwest. We were worried about boarding, but it worked out ok, and they were on time, courteous and fun (like Westjet), and not one of out bags got lost.

Spent today at WWoHP, and finally got the internet working at the villa. More later if I don't fall asleep between now and then. (Walked my legs off, I think...)
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JoAnne in NS
with dh, ds 14, and dd 11

1st trip May/June 06
Jan/Feb 07, same crew at CBR. DCL Magic Eastern Dec 07 CSR Sept 2009
Universal/WWoHP in Sunset Lakes villa Feb 2010 Same again Aug 2013 in Emerald Island villa
PTR/TR Without the Mouse Round 2
TR: First visit to Universal/SeaWorld Feb 2011
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Old 02-14-2011, 08:59 PM   #9
mbb
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Was so hoping you'd post today!!

Telling us how wonderful it is, perhaps with some pictures...????

Eh, you can post those when you get home...go have fun for us!!
Or, put your tired feet up by the pool, and enjoy no snow!!

Crank up the sunshine, and turn the heat up outside...
Momma's got airplane tickets for next Wednesday!!

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Old 02-14-2011, 11:35 PM   #10
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Well, the flight worked out ok. Someone moved for us, and we got three seats together, and dh got the aisle seat behind us. Usually if one of us “gets’ to sit kid-less, we swap half way through, with the realization that the parent with the kids is working hard and the other is reading the inflight magazine and enjoying those crunchy snacks in peace. Poor dh, not so much this time. He shared his row with a grandma and granddaughter, who were pleasant company, but there was pretty steady passing back and forth with the opposite row of mom/aunt/baby brother (with dh as the go-between), AND he had the most ill-behaved pair of boys behind him. They YELLED for close to three solid hours. I have NO problem with noise from a small child who’s unhappy or sick or whatever, and a parent who’s trying to comfort the child, but these kids were old enough to know better, and the mom was basically ignoring their noise, while Dad sat in a different section of the plane. Anyway, sitting with my own kids was kind of a relief, compared to dh’s trip. That said, I looove Southwest. The crew was fun (one FA sang parodies in a knockout voice) yet still efficient and courteous, we were on time, and all my bags arrived at the same time I did.

For the first time I remember, when we walked out of Orlando airport, I wasn’t hit by that “Florida” heat and smell. It was COLD! We layered up to get on the plane, hoodies and jackets, but I could’ve used my parka. Weird. Since we’ve been here, it’s gotten down to about 40F at night. COLD.

Big score: I already posted my great rate on a rental car; 13 days from Alamo for $184 all in for a midsize (Corolla or similar it said.) Well, Alamo has this “pick anything in your aisle” process now, and at the front of the midsize aisle when we got there was a big honking Dodge van, practically brand new and band-box fresh, with all the bells and whistles. We jumped in and beat it for the exit before someone changed their mind! Love that “pick from anything here” policy. There was another van in the midsize aisle, but a lot older, and a cute little VW bug (not right for us, but fun for someone who really only wanted a Corolla).

Directions to the villa were good, and we found it easily. It’s in a nice, not fancy, gated estate called Sunset Lakes. It’s not far from Emerald Isle, and also the Lindfield’s area. It’s a 4 bedroom with a pool, and a view across the street over a little lake. We dropped our stuff and went looking for supper, and found a Cracker Barrel nearby. I like Cracker Barrel a lot, but the two we’ve eaten at in Orlando don’t have the best service. But we were too hungry by that point to care.

The kids wanted to use the pool IMMEDIATELY and we let them get wet, but it was freezing! The pool is heated, but nothing here is equipped to keep up with this cold. Finally, we all fell into bed.

Sunday we didn’t do much, a little grocery shopping, and a trip to “Showcase of Citrus”. Unfortunately, we seem to be kind of between seasons…a lot of the trees were picked over, but it was still fun to wander the grove and look at all the fruit. We go regularly to an apple u-pick in the Annapolis valley since we moved to NS, and it was familiar and exotic at the same time. We still managed to come back with a 20 lb bag of tangerines and oranges. The thing that tickled the kids most was the free-range chickens who were grubbing around under the trees. Big, beautiful, silly chickens. The kids also had more time to swim. Dd proved hardier than her big brother, and managed to stay in for the better part of an hour. The owners have lots of pool toys for us to use, including an inflatable ride-on orca whom my son dubbed “Shamwow”. The even more amusing part is that he didn’t initially realize that WASN’T the name of the famous whale at SeaWorld. But since then he joined the joke and has been warning his sister to watch out for “Sham-poo” in the pool.

This morning I knew we couldn’t make “rope drop” at Universal because we couldn’t pick up our tickets until 8:30. We ordered Orlando Flex Passes from Undercover Tourist, and they are closed Sundays…so off we went around 10:30 this morning, Monday. Pick up was easy and smooth, and we were in Islands of Adventure by 11:30 or so. Love Undercover Tourist too.

This is our first trip to Universal, and we made straight for the Wizarding World, even though we knew our timing wasn’t great. It was so exciting to see Hogwart’s on the horizon, and then catch a glimpse of the Hogwart’s Express in the distance. Crowds walking through the park were light, but that changed on entering the Wizarding World. It wasn’t awful, like I’ve seen it on youtube and such, but it was crowded. The shops are very small and atmospheric (think the UK in Epcot), well done, but NOT fun with this kind of crowd pressure. We found a lot to exclaim about…the squealing mandrakes, the bludgers trying to escape their case, the Monster Book of Monsters, but still, I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if there were about 50% fewer people there. (I hate crowds, and have spent months prepping for our previous Disney visits strategizing how to avoid crowds. Pretty much impossible if you want to see Hogsmeade right now.) We stumbled on to the performance by Durmstrang and Beaux Batons almost immediately, and that was quite charming and, in the small courtyard space, didn’t feel nearly as crowded as the shops. We tried :fight of the Hippogriff, which was just my dd’s speed. I was so caught up photographing Hagrid’s Hut and Buckbeak that I wasn’t paying attention to the whole “roller coaster” thing, and nearly lost my camera! It’s a nice little coaster, too short, but fun.

We had lunch at the Three Broomsticks. It was a bad time to go (we walked in around 12:15), but we were seated with our food 20-25 minutes later. If you’re hungry, don’t bother ordering the Cornish Pasties. There’s no way they’d sustain a Cornish miner like the yummy pasties you can get at the Halifax farmers’ market. I swear, these were the size of pierogies, and I got three. The food was tasty enough, but truly, it was skimpy. Dh had three or four fish strips for his fish and chips (nothing close to fillet size), and a scant few chips on the side. But we got to see owl shadows on the wall, and I got pictures of my kids toasting each other with their mugs of butterbeer.

The detail, is, as everyone has said, wonderful. I do think I could spend several more hours wandering around peering into nooks and crannies. We will go back to the Forbidden journey at least once for the castle tour, as we felt the walk was much too fast, and the pressure of ride-motivated people behind us made us feel compelled to get through. But the ride was brilliant, I thought. My dd kept her eyes closed for most of it, but did agree it was very cool. Our “run” got stuck at one point, we were hanging by a sideways-whirling scene over the treetops. But we had a chance to debrief dd a bit before the next part, which was the dementors. Thank goodness we got stuck over the benign treetops, and not a few feet on wth some dementor hanging in our faces! We were only stopped for a few minutes, but it was a relief when we started moving again.

Both kids got pygmy puffs at Zonko’s, and the naming ceremony is very sweet. We wandered off for a while around 2:30 to let the crowds clear. We road the Jurassic Park river adventure, which was fun though a little daunting on a cold day. (Ha! Listen to me, now 65 or 70F is not warm enough!) We also went through the Jurassic Park Discovery Center and road the Ptersdon Flyers. We waited about 30 minutes for the flyers, one of those queues you can’t see what you’re getting in to. There were SIX seats/three cars with two seats each available on this whole ride. It’s a gentle hanging-type track (calling it a coaster would be a gross exaggeration) that circles part of Jurassic park and it was surprisingly wonderful. I wanted the ride to be proportional to the wait, but alas, it isn’t. That felt more like flying to me than FJ, though. Lovely.

We went back to Hogsmeade after 4 and the crowds surely were clearing out. The line at Ollivander’s was mercifully short (I had been watching all day) and we got in with only a two-show wait. It was also a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the nervousness and pleasure of the lanky young man who was picked to get his first wand.

Feet walked to stumps, we got back in the car. I don’t like the way you have to work so hard to get to the park at Universal. It’s a LOOONG WAY from where you park your car to the first attraction. Home for a dinner of deli take out, and bed.

Tomorrow we have breakfast with Stitch and his friends at Ohana. One of our few flirtations on the edge of Disneyworld this trip. Then—Sea World or Universal probably. It’s supposed to break 80 by Th/Fr so hoping we can get to a water park then.

Thanks for reading.
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JoAnne in NS
with dh, ds 14, and dd 11

1st trip May/June 06
Jan/Feb 07, same crew at CBR. DCL Magic Eastern Dec 07 CSR Sept 2009
Universal/WWoHP in Sunset Lakes villa Feb 2010 Same again Aug 2013 in Emerald Island villa
PTR/TR Without the Mouse Round 2
TR: First visit to Universal/SeaWorld Feb 2011
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Old 02-14-2011, 11:45 PM   #11
Kat&Dom
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Thanks for the great update with all the incredible detail. I almost feel like I am there with all of you. I hope the weather warms up and you continue to have a great vacation!
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Old 02-15-2011, 01:38 PM   #12
mbb
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3 solid hours....yikes!

That's why we love JetBlue...satellite TV in the back of every seat keeps all the kiddoes entertained, including mine!

Just so you feel better about the Florida *cold*...another whack of snow last night, topped off with some nasty rain, and all into a deep freeze this afternoon.

It's lovely

Give Stitchy a big hug from us at breakfast - love the flirting with Disney!!

You're a great writer, JoAnne!!

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Old 02-15-2011, 02:39 PM   #13
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Awesome deal from Budget! Right now, I'm paying $280 from National for 12 days. I'm a huge fan of the 'pick anything' places too, it's why I started dealing with National in the first place.

Can't wait until October when I can finally check out WWoHP for myself!
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Old 02-15-2011, 06:27 PM   #14
pooksma
Can't help it~there is something about Ed...kinda like the Gary Sinise thing...
Well I have laughed my posterior region until it almost removed itself from my body
 
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Great update- thanks for sharing
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Old 02-15-2011, 10:03 PM   #15
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Thanks for posting JoAnne, was wondering how the villa was. I don't think any of the homes down there are equipped to handle the cold. Last year it was cold for the whole time we were there and the heating system in the house we stayed in just wasn't doing a very good job. Kind of wished for my wood furnace.
Hope it warms up and stays warm.
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