Cast: me- 42- the planner! dh- 43 (turned 44 on the trip)- looking forward to Universal. dd-15 loves all things Disney but not a thrill rider dd-13 loves all things FAST! We flew from Anchorage on 12/21 to Chicago to spend Christmas with our family. We flew from Chicago to Orlando on 12/26. We arrived at MCO at 10:15pm and took a cab (about $50) to Hard Rock Hotel. We checked in and got our tickets and Express Passes and were sleeping around midnight. This was our first time at Universal after many years of Disney trips. 12/27/12 (used Express Pass all day) We decided to visit Universal Studios first since the opening time was 9:00am and that worked best for our late night. We walked to US and arrived to the gate at 8:45 and the park was open. It was a chilly morning with temps in the 40s but the sun was shining so it wasnt too bad in the sun. Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit was closed due to the cold so we rode Despicable Me. It was so fun and we were very impressed. We then rode (not sure of order after Shrek) Shrek 4-D, Disaster, Mummy (loved it so we rode it twice despite the lockers being difficult to use because the touch screens barely worked), Men in Black (long slow line for the lockers), Simpsons, Twister (lame), Woody Woodpeckers Nuthouse Coaster, ET (loved it!). We saw Fear Factor (only did this for dh and I hated it but I disliked the tv show too) and Horror Make Up Show (great!). Despite the holiday crowds, the Express Pass was fast and we didnt wait for anything. We took a long afternoon break and spent a few more hours in the park in the evening. We also saw the Macys Parade and enjoyed it! Rip Ride Rockit did open at some point but the lines were so long we never rode it. Dd 15 rode everything but would not have tried RRR even if it was open. The only attraction we didnt visit was T 2. We were going to do it at the end of the evening but the next show wasnt for 20 minutes and after a full day, we were ready to head back to the hotel. DINING- We grabbed food at the counter service place at Hard Rock for breakfast. The egg sandwiches were a hit! Since it was our first vistit, I didnt make any reservations for dinner so we ended up getting the Meal Plan. I did have the worst cheeseburger ever for lunch but overall the food was fine and the meal plan worked well for us. Disney far exceeds US for food quality and efficiency. 12/28 Early morning so we could do early entry which opened at 7:00am. We arrived at 6:45 and the park was open. We headed straight for Forbidden Journey. I had no idea what to expect on this ride so that added to the excitement! We were on the ride a few minutes after 7:00am. WOW is all we could say. It was by far the best ride we have ever experienced but it left me very, very dizzy! Im not sure why we didnt ride Dragon Challenge next, I think it may not have been running. We rode Flight of Hippogriff next and then just walked around taking in the amazing detail of WWoHP! The rest of the park was basically empty until 10:00am and we rode all the big rides using Express Pass before 11:00am. It was warmer than the day before but still only in the upper 50s but again, sunny. WWoHP was closed to capacity (I think this happened by 9:00am) so we got a fastpass to enter. Our return time was only an hour out, so no big deal. We bought ponchos and rode all 3 water rides. We laughed so hard. It was a blast but we still got fairly wet despite the ponchos. It was very worth it. We reentered WWoHP and was shocked by the crowds! My dd 15 waited in the butterbeer line while we rode Dragon Challenge. We left the park and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (good) before a long break at the hotel. It was 11:45 and we had done all the major attractions. We ate dinner at Margaritaville. It was good and a fun atmosphere. It had started to rain while we were eating dinner but we decided to go back to IoA anyways. We rode a few rides in the Dr. Seuss area we didnt ride in the morning and then visited Poseidons Fury with no wait. It was cool and a nice escape from the rain but we thought it was a ride. Glad we did it though. We then headed back to WWoHP. The plan was to just wait in the 60 minute line for FJ but we ended up doing single rider which was barely a 10 minute wait. We all enjoyed it even more the 2nd time but I was dizzy again! We walked back to the Hard Rock in the pouring rain! I ended up putting all of our wet clothes in the dryer. 12/29/12 We had a 3rd day of tickets due to the 3rd day free promotion, but decided we had experienced the parks and wanted to sleep in before checking out. We had a bit of teenage girl drama in the morning which wasnt a great start to the day and my husbands birthday. Neither of my girls brought the right shoes although they each brought 2 pairs of UGGs. Between the water rides and the rain my dd 15 only had wet shoes and the flip flops we bought her in the park gave her an awful blister. She was having a bad hair day (thick curly red hair) and about 7 outfits changes but we did make it out of the room by 11:00am. Next stop Disneys POFQ. Our teenage girls LOVED The Hard Rock Hotel. I loved walking to the parks. We enjoyed Universal but we were all anxious to get to our true happy place! We took a cab (a large SUV) to POFQ. The fare was about $50. It was very warm and the sun was starting to come out. Our room was ready when we arrived about 11:30ish. I got dh a birthday button and there was a birthday message for him on our voicemail. We were all hungry and had an excellent lunch at the food court. We got settled a bit and then took a bus to MK and then the monorail to see the Christmas decorations at the resorts. Beautiful!! The girls went to MK on their own for the first time and Dh and I went to Epcot to meet friends and then have dinner at Le Cellier. We met our friends at Spaceship Earth and proceeded to England for our first drink. Dh had a Bodington (spelling ?) and I had a raspberry vodka and sprite! We then walked around the world stopping at Germany and Mexico for more drinks. We saw EO (which is much better after several strong drinks!!). We finished at England with the Hat Lady singing happy birthday to Dave. It was so fun and our first time we had a drinking focus at Epcot. Our dinner at LC didnt disappoint. It was excellent. The lobster mac and cheese was so good! The girls loved being at MK on their own but ended up waiting in some long lines. My favorite quote of the trip was from my 13 year old. She said, it doesnt look like mom does much, but it sure falls apart when she isnt with us when telling dh about the crowds and lines at MK. We all met up at the hotel ready for our early start at Epcot the next day! 12/30- 8:00 park opening at Epcot. We got there at 7:35am and were part of a group that was escorted to Soarin for the first ride of the day! We got a FP and were heading to TT before 8:00am. TT was a walk on but the ride design center was not available. We were disappointed in the new TT. As a family we always joke about bumpy rode and break checks but those parts are no longer part of the ride. I cant remember the exact order but we rode Sum of All Thrills, Nemo, Figment, MS-green, TTx2 and Soarin x 2 before exiting the park for a long break at POFQ. We also got our Annual Passes and TiW!! Very exciting!! We took a cab to WL for a 6:00 reservation at WC. It was really good. We looked around the resort and then went back to the hotel via cab. The plan had been to go to EMH at MK and see the NYEE fireworks, but we decided to do MK AM EMH at 7:00am. It was a good call. We ended up going to bed really early. 12/31 7:00am @ MK. This was our first trip since FP enforcement and we ended up going back and forth a lot but the weather was perfect and the walking isnt too bed of a deal for us. We rode and FP Space Mountain. Man, the older I get the more I notice how rough this ride is!! We then went to the new FL and rode LM. Very cute. We rode Peter Pan too. We decided to wait at the rode to head to Big Thunder Mountain. I was in the front of the pack but the ride wasnt opening yet. We ended up riding Haunted Mansion then using our Space FPs. We got breakfast at the ice cream place on Main Street. I think we then went and got Splash FPs but I dont remember what we did next. We rode Splash with the FPs and dh and dd 13 went back to the hotel. Dd 15 and I rode Splash again with another FP before getting a great spot to watch the last Christmas Parade of the season @ 12:15. We made a quick exit through Adventureland and since the parade was now on Main Street the sidewalk was only open to walkers. We exited the park and a bus was waiting. We were back in the room an hour after the parade started! It was a great morning and the weather was perfect! After a break we went to Animal Kingdom for our 5:15 reservation at Yak & Yeti. It never disappoints. We rode Primeval Whirl with FP for the first time as a family. My husband and daughter were squished in and spun a lot. I dont think I ever laughed so hard on a ride before. We then rode TriceraTop Spin before heading to Dinosaur. We had a FP, but it was a walk on. We rode EE once in the 10 minute standby line before shopping a bit and heading out of the park as it was closing at 8:00pm. It was a very pleasant and fun evening. We returned to POFQ and the took the boat to DTD for NYE treats from Goofys. We shopped for a short time and headed back to the hotel to watch New Years Rockin Eve. I was sleeping when the ball dropped! 1/1/13 HAPPY NEW YEAR! We started our day at rope drop for DHS. We rode RnRC x2, ToT x2, and Star Tours. We saw Muppets and American Idol Experience. The park was not crowded at all so we just walked around took in the sights. Dave and I took the boat to Epcot for our lunch date at Biergarten while the girls went back to the hotel. It was 80 and sunny and they wanted to spend some time at the pool and some lunch. Our lunch was very good and we enjoyed the entertainment. We strolled around and went back to the hotel for a break. We arrived to Magic Kingdom around 6:00. We did some filler type rides/shows before heading to the Wishes Dessert Party. We all loved it and would do it again for sure! We rode Dumbo, Jungle Cruise (FP), and Pirates. It was another great day/night! 1/2 Today was a sleep in day and a switch from POFQ to Pop. I couldnt pass up the $74 rate and we have never stayed at a value. We got a 1:00 check out from POFQ so we had a very relaxing morning. We took a cab to Pop with all of our luggage at 1:00 and by 1:40 we were in our 80s room at Pop. We got settled in and took the bus to DHS to see American Idol, Beauty and the Beast, and the finale show of AIE. We didnt have a dinner plan and ended up getting a walk in seating at Sci Fi. Dh had a rueben which he considered to be outstanding, dd 13 had a shrimp pasta dish which was also excellent. dd 15 and I split a turkey sandwich. It was good. We then went to see Osbourne Lights which didnt disappoint! We had a FP for ToT so we did that before leaving. A nice relaxing day! 1/3 We woke up to cooler temps and fog but made it to Animal Kingdom by 8:30. We rode EE stand by x 2 and had FPs. The girls rode Primeval Whirl while I went to get FPs for KS. We saw the first show of FotLK and then used our FP for KS. We made a bit of a mistake and had lunch at Rainforest. I didnt realize that ToW cards worked at the counter services locations at AK but we always enjoy a Volcano! for dessert. We then went to Bugs Life before heading back to the hotel about 3:00. It was a pretty relaxing day. We had a fairly short break before heading to Epcot for our Garden Grill reservation. We checked in at 6:45 but didnt get seated until 7:15. We have some classic video of our girls when they were little here so it always brings back good memories. The food was excellent and our server was awesome. We didnt have a lot of time after dinner before the park was closing and it was raining a bit but we did walk on Spaceship Earth which always makes me happy! 1/4 This was our last full park day and the only day of bad weather! We got to DHS at 8:15 (good bus karma!) and the park opened at 8:35. We walked on TSM plus had a FP in hand. We then rode RnRC with a 5 minute wait. The plan was to ride ToT but it had a 90 minute wait and a line all the way down the road so we got hot drinks and breakfast and pulled at FP as soon as we could at 9:45. We then rode TSM with our FP. We had some time to kill before our ToT so we looked through One Mans Dream. We rode ToT and then exited the park to take the boat to Epcot. There was a steady drizzle but we strolled the WS and had lunch and snacks. I finally had caramel corn from Germany- YUM!! I made the long walk to Norway to get FPs for Maelstrom and back to France to meet the family for lunch. I love those very simple ham sandwiches at Boulangerie Patisserie plus some desserts to share. We headed back to Pop for a short break before heading to the Magic Kingdom for dinner at BoG. It was a steady drizzle and chilly outside. We checked in early and were seated 15 minutes before our reservation time. The restaurant is awesome! The food was very good but not outstanding. I loved the cupcakes but didnt think they were better than the ones we got at Garden Grill the night before. We then went to Hall of Presidents, watched the Castle Light Show (amazing!), rode Buzz with no wait during Wishes (it was so cloudy you really couldnt see them), People Mover, and Laugh Floor. Dave was picked to be Mike. Last time we went he was that guy. We then rode Astro Orbiter (first time in years!) and Tomorrowland Speedway. We got treats from Main Street and ended our perfect vacation! MK was really mellow in the evening after Wishes. Most rides were a walk on but we didnt take advantage of it. 1/5 travel day!! We slept in, went for a walk around Pop, and packed up. Our luggage was picked up at 11:30 and we checked in for our flight and were done with our bags until we got home to Anchorage! That was nice. We ate lunch at Pop and were picked up by ME. Our travels home were long, but uneventful. We flew through Denver and then Anchorage. It takes about 12 hours. Our favorite dinner was at Le Cellier. Least favorite was Be Our Guest for food quality. I think the steak was the best dish. This was our first trip without a rental car and it was great!! We only waited 20 minutes for a bus once but mostly the buses were either there when we arrived or less than 10 minutes. I would do a carless trip again. It saved us over $500. I reallly liked POFQ but the rest of the family prefers CSR. Our favorite has been the one bedroom villa at BWV but traveling at peak season eliminates that option! Pop was fine. Traveling during this times means everything is more extensive so when rooms were discounted on 1/2, I decided to take advantage. We were in the 80s building and by cutting through the parking lot it only 3 minutes to get to the bus stop. I was unimpressed by the food at the food court and check out was always slow due to confusion about pricing and dining plan. The food court at POFQ was great! We bought APs because we are returning for an off-site visit (girls and I only) and then another trip from 12/20/13 - 12/30/13. We will most likely stay at CSR the whole trip unless I can get an AP discount for AKL. The crowds were huge but getting there early and using FPs made it fine. We left the park for breaks earlier than we normally do because of the crowds but it wasnt an issue. FP enforcement was the biggest problem at MK. I will have to plan better for July when it will be too hot to cross the park over and over. Cant wait to start planning our next trip!!