Beast. The awesome PTR of awesomeness June 2012 last update: Universal Resort

Discussion in 'Pre-Trip Reports and Plans' started by BrerMama, Feb 19, 2012.

  1. BrerMama

    BrerMama DIS Veteran

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    Hi all, and welcome to yet another time suck to keep you away from such mundane things as cleaning your toilet or folding laundry. I'll try to make this as entertaining as possible. Shouldn't be too hard, as we're a pretty entertaining bunch here where life truly is a happy song.

    So here's a little introduction to our happy family:

    [​IMG]

    That photo is over a year old. Time to get some new family photos taken, people. Anyway, it'll give you the lay of the land.

    I'm Kim. 41, mom, early childhood special ed teacher, blogger, scrapbooker, hobbyist photographer. I'm the planner and organizer in our family. The glue, if you will, that holds our travels together. I love to write and record and document. And plan. Did I mention that?

    I know that photo is in black and white, but my husband Dan really does have gray hair, and he really is only 43. He's a pretty funny guy. Or at least he thinks he is. He has memory issues. No, that's not fair. He doesn't think he has memory issues, he just sees no need to remember anything because he knows I'll remember everything (I do have a pretty awesome memory). The only time this becomes a problem is when he insists I didn't tell him something, and I did, he just chose not to remember it. I get a bit cranky when that happens. So Dan doesn't remember much, likes it that way, and only wants to be there for the fun. He's an adrenaline junky and his biggest regret in life is marrying a total ride wuss like me. We've been married 21 years and I think he's stuck with me.

    Then there's our son. That photo above does not do the current look justice. Let me see if I have something more recent....

    [​IMG]

    That's right people. I'm growing my very own Barry Manilow Chia Pet. Seriously, the boy has not cut his hair since June and in June it was only a very small trim because we were taking senior pictures. He wears shorts and Crocs slides 90% of the time (if he's wearing jeans, you know it's a cold day in Kansas) and he's a vegetarian. My very own hippie. He has a wicked sense of humor and I adore him. He'll graduate from high school in May; we're currently deciding which college he'll attend. He's been accepted into a community college and a state university, both within a half hour of our home. For several reasons, he's going to live at home for at least his first year of college. Mainly because the Keurig is his and I'm pretty sure the rest of this family couldn't function if he took it with him to college.

    Joking.

    Sort of.

    Anyway, I'll just call him Tater here in this trip report. His name is Brady, but back when he was but a babe, my sister started calling him "Brady Mr Potady Head" and he loved french fries and mashed potates and soon we were just calling him Tater. I'm sure a teenage boy loves to be called Tater, right?

    Next up are my girls

    [​IMG]

    The oldest (and now shortest... her sister has shot up in the 9 months since that photo was taken) is Kiah (16 next month). She's currently lecturing me because she just read Mombaarjo's trip report and she wants to know why I didn't do a surprise trip this time. Um, because then she wouldn't get all the fun of being my assistant trip planner? She's a pretty good girl... sometimes a little blonde, but she's fun. She's currently in the middle of forensics season and kicking some butt. Two medals in two tournaments. She does Oration, for any forensics parents out there. I'm sure you'll read more about her in the future because I'm sure she'll be reading this. She's a huge trip report fan.

    Finally, my youngest. Chesney. I'll just call her that. She just turned 12. She's tall, loves to read, and is caught between being a little girl and being a teenager. So awkward and difficult. I adore her, she's my baby, but she's developing a bit of that teen attitude and I could live without that. She loves Stitch and Harry Potter and I'm praying she doesn't get too cool for all that before we go in June.

    So that's us. I've got tons more to write, but don't want to bore you to death before we even get started. Before you sign on, though, I'll give you a little overview of what is to come:

    • 16 nights
    • 2 resorts: Sheraton Vistana (yes, we're staying offsite at Disney) and Royal Pacific Resort
    • 6 parks: MK, AK, HS, Epcot, Universal, and IOA
    • 2 water parks: TL and BB
    • 7 dining reservations (currently... it could change if Dan suddenly remembers we weren't going to do very many... or if he forgets and I throw some more in)
    • 1 airport hotel: Quality Suites at Kansas City International
    • 2 or 3 melt downs (I'm hoping that's not per day)
    • adult beverages for me
    • healthy and vegetarian dining for my two oldest

    You really want to do this, don't you? Come join us for our pre-trip report... and what promises to be a very long trip report to follow. We'd love to have you!
     
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  3. JayhawkFans

    JayhawkFans Registered

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    YEAH ... So happy you have started your PTR.

    Can't wait to follow along.

    Sarah
     
  4. Jaaaacki

    Jaaaacki Mouseketeer

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    Hi Kim, I'll be following along. We'll be at Disney the same time. Can't wait to hear all the details.
     
  5. BrerMama

    BrerMama DIS Veteran

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    Aw, Sarah's here! Welcome!

    Looks like it might be a bit of a busy time. We're usually far out of Florida by mid-June. Should be fun!
     
  6. BrerMama

    BrerMama DIS Veteran

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  7. BrerMama

    BrerMama DIS Veteran

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    Chapter 2: In the Beginning

    Where to start? Let's go back a little in the history of our family....

    Dan was so not a Disney person when I met him. His family didn't vacation when he was a child, and Disney was just not his thing. I managed to convince him different and we took our "true" honeymoon back in 1992 to Disneyland. Loved every minute of it and it was the beginning of my love affair with The Unofficial Guide.

    Since then, we've managed to make 2 more trips to Disneyland with the kids, and 4 to Walt Disney World. Some of those trips were not the most fun trips of our life -- cross country driving trips with infants and toddlers do not have the most treasured place in my file of memories -- but we're hooked. We don't go every year, but we go as often as we can.

    Back in summer of 2011, it had been 2 years since our last Disneyland trip and 4 since WDW. We had actually planned to go to WDW in 2010, then decided we didn't want Disney trips in back to back years. Then we intended to go last year in 2011 and our house decided to fall apart on us and we had to put that money into plumbing. So it's 2011 and we're on vacation in our other favorite vacation spot, Branson, MO.

    I'm a-floating through one of the rides at Silver Dollar City, a theme park where we hold season passes most years, and realize that I'm just over it. I'm over a very pretty, very yummy theme park where the only rides I will ride are a silly boat ride with guns (think lame Buzz Lightyear on water) and water rides. I'm a little *gasp* bored with Branson and all that it has to offer.

    [Um, side note here: Not so over it that we aren't going to Branson for our entire Spring Break in a month. Just finding it's not how I want to spend my summer. Plus, I need to hit the outlets to stock up for our Disney trip.]

    [​IMG]

    Dan & Kiah, my roller coaster junkies, on Powderkeg at SDC

    At some point during that trip, I announced to my family that in 2012, we will be going to WDW. We will be using the Universal passes we purchased five years ago.

    And so the countdown began.... I think we started at 300+ days. I returned here to the DIS boards, which while a bit crazy at times, has been my home for Disney planning since 2000. I preordered a 2012 Passporter, which I consider essential to any trip. I started a spreadsheet for planning. And here we are, a little over a hundred days out and preparations are getting serious, people.

    Next up: And where shall we stay? Offsite?!? Heresy!
     
  8. DMGeurts

    DMGeurts Never open texts with the "Hand Sewn Button" attac

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    I am here!! And loving it so far... I really enjoy your writing style!

    I ROFLed at your Chia Pet (AKA: Tater)... Sorry... We we have some cheesy nick names in our family too, but I think my dd's would murder me in my sleep if I posted them publicly.

    I also love that you have 2 girls - although they aren't as close together as mine are - I can relate to the attitudes... It's even worse when they both choose to have them at the exact same time - that's when I lock myself in my room. I am praying mine can be nice to each other for 10 days in a row at Disney... I already told DH that I am sending them home, if that's the case... Grrrr...

    Oh, sorry, yes, this is your PTR...

    Looking forward to hearing about more of your plans! :)

    D~
     
  9. cogero

    cogero DIS Veteran

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    i am following over from D~'s report.

    Loved meeting your family.

    I have a special place in my heart for SpecEd teachers.
     
  10. tinkbell13

    tinkbell13 Mouseketeer

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    Hi Kim,

    I found my way over here from D~'s PTR too. I read the first sentence and you had me hooked. You know . . . anything to get away from laundry and toilets! :rotfl:

    I :rotfl2: at your 'Barry Manilow Chia Pet' comment. Seriously though, I had to clean my monitor off after that. (Note to self, no liquids while reading this PTR in future.) I'll have to remember that Chia pet comment for use in the future with my DS, who hasn't cut his hair since mid-July. He doesn't know it yet but he will be getting a trim before our trip next month.

    Loved the introduction to your family and can't wait to read more about your plans and trip. I'd love to go to WDW in the May/June timeframe but that just ain't gonna happen anytime soon (we are pretty much booked every weekend from May to October with racing and soccer!) so I'll just have to live vicariously through you!
     
  11. Mrs Grumpy

    Mrs Grumpy Always Planning!

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    Hey there. I'm in but you almost lost me on the comments on Branson though ;). Glad you are still doing both!
     
  12. BrerMama

    BrerMama DIS Veteran

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    Welcome and thanks so much! I do so love my kids. Calling him Tater is probably the least I do to embarrass my son. And the girls and fighting. Sigh. All. The. Time. Unless they're best friends. There is no happy medium.

    Oh thank you. I have a special place in my heart for kids with special needs, so I appreciate those those appreciate me. :grouphug:

    PLEASE tell me how/if you get your son to agree to a trim. I refuse to put gas in his car unless he shaves, but his dad will sabotage me if I try to up the ante and make the rule "no gas unless you get a haircut." I swear this is my punishment for liking Poison in the 80s.

    I personally am not thrilled with going to WDW in late June (I'd prefer the end of May/first of June, when we usually go) but DH is not budging on this. We could go earlier, he's just always busier at work the first half of the month, so he'd rather go during the slower time. Since he agreed to two full weeks, I'll go when he wants.

    Ah. I love Branson. Sort of already have my countdown going. Trying to think how I can Disney-fy Spring Break. Rope drop at the Disney Store Outlet? A BucketsNBoards show (since they're on the Disney Cruises now)?
     
  13. BrerMama

    BrerMama DIS Veteran

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    Chapter 3: Where shall we stay (the short-ish version)

    I guess we started where everyone else starts in planning our trip... where are we going to stay?

    We stayed at Riverside in 2004 and 2007. It was "our place." I have so many memories of the food court, the pools, our room. We stood out by the river in 2007 and watched a space shuttle launch. I *loved* that place.

    However -- and you might have noticed this in our intro photos -- we are no longer a young family. We are a family with 2 teens and a preteen. And unfortunately for us, the younger two are both girls. With the configuration of beds at Riverside (and the new refurb) this would mean my 6 foot tall son would need to sleep on a trundle/murphy bed.

    That's not happening, peoples.

    [​IMG]
    loved the Mousekeepers at Riverside!

    And then there's the bathroom issue. We need 2. Not just "it would be great to have 2 bathrooms" but we need 2. I could maybe compromise on this issue if it was a really great room, but when we're talking 2 weeks, I'm thinking we need two.

    Value resorts do not appeal to me. I teach pre-K. I'm surrounded by bright and happy and overstimulating for 8 hours a day, five days a week, 36 weeks a year. I want calm and peaceful -- serene -- when I'm on vacation. So family suites at All Star or Art of Animation are out.

    That pretty much leaves us going offsite. No way is Dan The Budget Man going to pay Disney Deluxe prices when it's only one room (and here it is almost March and they still don't have any discounts available for our time period and no, Disney has never ever sent me a PIN).

    Originally we booked a pool home. I loved the idea of having our own pool. The kids loved the idea of having their own rooms and bathrooms. It was a great solution for us.

    Except I started to get nervous about the owners. Threads were posted here on the DIS boards by people visiting soon who were unable to get ahold of the owners. Many tried to make new reservations and got no response. I myself was waiting for an email which I never got. I ended up cancelling, just because I felt uneasy about the situation and didn't want to worry about it for months on end.

    I decided that renting from a private owner probably wasn't what I wanted. I wanted a brand name. Hmmm... what about a timeshare? And while I'm looking for different accomodations anyway, why don't we just go ahead and stay on property at Universal (because while we'd be crammed in one room at Universal the onsite benefits are so huge that I can make it work for a few days)?

    So... trying to keep this really long story short... we ended up booking Sheraton Vistana for 11 nights. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms. Nice little resort. Got it for $123/night plus taxes. Super duper cheap. Yes, we'll have to rent a car. And yes, we'll have to pay for parking. But hey, we're renting a car! We can go shopping! We can try some new-to-us restaurants! We can shop at Wal-mart!

    [​IMG]

    After our time at Vistana, we'll move to Royal Pacific Resort. I got the cheapest room they offer. I plan to spend little to no time in the room. We'll sleep. We'll survive the bathroom situation. It's four nights, and that unlimited Express Pass thing just can't be beat.

    To conclude this not-so-brief chapter, I'm pretty sad that we're not staying onsite. I want that magic bubble. I want what is familiar.

    But there's this other side of me that's thankful for the space we'll have. Excited about the opportunity to explore a little outside of that bubble. Excited about trying something new. And determined to write a trip report that will show that you can stay offsite and still have an amazing, magical trip.

    So stay tuned.

    And rock on.
     
  14. BrerMama

    BrerMama DIS Veteran

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    So today, along with a fellow teacher and a university professor, I presented at a state conference on early childhood special education. I wasn't nervous at all.... until I was driving across town to the conference. At that point I decided that the scarf I was wearing looking like a paisley caterpillar trying to attack me. And that my hair looked ridiculous. And that my thumbnail was no longer needed, so I might as well just bite it off.

    For the record, it went really well. I sort of enjoy talking about stuff... whether it be my profession or my interests or my planning. Just in case you haven't picked up on that by now.

    None of this is really Disney related, but here's a Disney question I've been pondering for a few days. I woke up yesterday and my Disney countdown app on my iPhone was at 114 days, which means that two weeks from today is our double digit dance day. :banana: :banana: :banana: :banana: :banana:

    In the past, on our double digit day, we've had a little celebration. In the past, this usually included visiting the Disney store and going out to eat. Well... our Disney Store is long gone. And we don't usually go out to eat on a Thursday. DH works 12 hour days 4 days a week, so he's usually not home until after 7 pm on a Thursday.

    I could do a Disney themed meal that Friday, but we're accustomed to going out to eat on Fridays. I sort of have issues with coming home and cooking when DH has been sitting at home watching his DVR all day. It doesn't sit well with me. We solved this issue by just eating out every Friday. Lots of times it's just subs from Jimmy John's or Subway. When we're getting fancy, we order pizza. About once a month we actually go out to eat. Like sit in the restaurant and order drinks and everything. So anyone have any suggestions re: a good (probably chain) restaurant that could be vaguely tied to Disney? Or an easy themed meal?
     
  15. tinkbell13

    tinkbell13 Mouseketeer

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    Congratulations on the presentation going well. I hate getting up in front of people and presenting and always have. Grade school speeches were a disaster for me. I am a nervous wreck now prior to presenting to a group, then I stand in front of all those people and this really polished looking and knowledgable person presents my materials. :confused3 Little do they all know I am shaking inside.

    Yay for upcoming double digit day! That is the same day as we leave for the World! I'll have to think a bit more on restaurants or a themed meal. Not sure what you have in your area and there are typically more/different options for restaurants in the US than what we have around here. I mean, honestly, I ate at Jimmy Johns for the first time at the end of December. :) Didn't even know it existed a month before that.
     
  16. MHTeacher

    MHTeacher DIS Veteran

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    Fellow teacher here, also going in a few months, to celebrate our oldest daughter's high school graduation!

    Looking forward to hearing more of your plans! :)
     
  17. smile5sunshine

    smile5sunshine Think of the happiest thing, it's the same as havi

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  18. BrerMama

    BrerMama DIS Veteran

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    Oh, you're almost there! Have a great trip!

    Welcome. Love my fellow teachers! Trying to get my children to join us in the profession... unfortunately, the teachers at their high school apparently hate their jobs and are telling my kids they're too smart to be teachers. I just love teaching so much that it's hard for me to imagine not wanting my child to be a teacher. I think it's the most fulfilling job ever.

    Welcome! Glad to have you here!

    And now, on to the next...
     
  19. BrerMama

    BrerMama DIS Veteran

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    Chapter 4: A Little Story about Buying Tickets

    Like many planners here on the DIS Boards, I have never been completely satisfied with our lodging. I am constantly looking for a better place to stay and a better deal. I'm fairly sure we've got the best deal on Vistana and I'm happy with it... but that doesn't mean that when I get an email from All Ears that talks about a different resort with a different deal that I don't spend a few minutes reading it and considering.

    And it doesn't mean that I don't watch the Codes & Rates board here... in the vain hope that Disney would release an awesome discount for our dates.

    Readers, this really bugs my family. They don't understand the whole constant checking for a better deal/better place. It annoys them that I'm never happy with what I've got. I pull out examples of times where I wasn't happy and I got us a better deal or better lodging. They agree, and then tell me to stop anyway.

    Last month, we were siting around talking about Valentine's Day. Dan, the budget man, is not a huge fan of V-Day. It's a made up holiday that requires him to spend money, so he's not a fan. He turns to me and says, "You know how you're planning our show schedule for Spring Break." Me, thinking of my handy spread sheet, "Yup." Dan: "Why don't you just go ahead and make all those reservations for your Valentine's Day gift?"

    Does anyone see the problem I might have with this? Um, we're going to those shows whether or not there's a Valentine's Day in there. And I'm making those reservations -- if I choose -- regardless. (I actually decided to wait until we get there to make show reservations. We're going to go crazy and just fly by the seat of our pants.)

    Nope, not fooling me buddyboy.

    I counter propose. "Dude, that's not a Valentine's Day gift in any language. However, I will compromise. Let's go to AAA and buy our Disney tickets. Then we can go out to dinner at Panera. I'll consider that a lame Valentine's Day gift and let you off the hook."

    You see... if we have our Disney tickets in hand, there will be no more hoping for free dining PINs. If we have our tickets, we will be staying offsite. I've researched enough to know that Vistana is the best offsite option for us. Purchasing the tickets would mean that I'd have to say to myself, "OK, we're staying offsite and we're going to make this the best offsite trip ever. It's going to be so much more awesome than if we'd stayed onsite. We shall make it so."

    Dan the Budget Man has every Friday off. So one Friday after I got off work, I came home, everyone hopped in our aging Uplander and we drove to the west side of town to the AAA office. I made Dan drive because I hate traffic on the west side. Those drivers are crazy.

    The kids waited in the van, and Dan and I went to buy the tickets.

    Oh wait -- I should add here that in addition to my Branson spreadsheet, I of course have a Disney spreadsheet going. I have one break day in our Disney portion of the trip. However, I'd been thinking that with Test Track being down, we probably didn't need two full days at Epcot. While the kids and I will probably enjoy World Showcase, Dan's tolerance for anything educational/non-scream inducing is very low. So one full day is probably more than enough at Epcot. I had been tossing out ideas for what we could do with that second day I had scheduled. My favorite idea was going to Sea World. I thought my thrill seekers would love Manta and Kraken. I thought I'd love Sea World (even though I am fish-phobic, I love the whales and dolphins). (P.S. Stop laughing. There is too such a thing as fish phobia. Ichthyophobia. Look it up.)

    Anyway... Dan was really not on board for the whole "let's go to Sea World" idea. More money, you know. So then I said, "Let's at least go to Aquatica."

    We walk into AAA, they give us another spreadsheet with prices and ticket options. I walked in intending to buy 10 day MYW tickets. No options. Even though I only had 8 park days planned.

    Dan looks at the spreadsheet and says, "Let's get 8 day tickets and add the Water Parks option. It's only $30/more per ticket from what we planned spending." Left unsaid was "and quite a bit cheaper than buying a ticket to Sea World and/or Aqautica."

    Since my kids love water parks, especially Disney water parks, I decided that would be a fine idea.

    So after 30 minutes of one lady teaching another how to ring up Disney tickets, and AAA being unable to ring them up as a group, but having to ring them up individually, then activate, and me getting constant texts from my kids who decided to stay in the car...

    [​IMG]

    You should have seen how nervous I was with those things sitting in my purse during dinner at Panera and shopping at Target. I just knew some random shopper at Target was waiting to steal our Disney tickets right outta my purse.

    And did you notice that diamond lane parking pass? I casually asked about it, knowing that some AAA offices only give them out if you book a package through them. "Oh, sure," said the nice lady behind the counter. "We've got a whole stack." It's a little perk from AAA. We still have to pay for parking, but that was in our budget anyway. The diamond lane card will simply get us parking closer to the front if it's available. I'm guessing we're going to be some of the first cars in the lot each day, so I doubt we need it, but it might be nice to have if we leave and come back later.

    Came home that night and redid my Disney spreadsheet. Had to drop one ADR, but we're OK with it. Next up is refamiliarizing myself with the water parks. We've been to both parks -- and if you're in the mood, you should read about our day at Blizzard Beach in 2007 -- but I always felt like I lost my sense of direction once inside the park. I'm determined not to let that happen again.

    I think I'd promised some ADR talk this weekend, but I just felt like the ticket story was ready to come out of me. ADRs in the next week, I promise!
     
  20. MHTeacher

    MHTeacher DIS Veteran

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    I completely agree! :thumbsup2 My graduating daughter wants to major in Special Education in college, and a lot of people ask me if I've tried to talk her out of it. How could I? :confused3 I tell them that I love teaching, so it's kind of hard to try to talk her out of the profession!

    This is a beautiful sight! :goodvibes

    I can totally relate to constantly trying to "up the deal" I've got---I'm always checking to see if there's something better--will I like X resort better than Y resort? So, I'm sure you feel good to have the tickets bought, and the details of your trip more concrete!
     
  21. tinkbell13

    tinkbell13 Mouseketeer

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    I finally convinced him to get a trim. I basically told him he had to get a trim to clean it up or it was getting cut short again. He didn't really put up a fight. But then again, he is only 11 and knows that what we say goes. :thumbsup2
     

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