Pre-trip for Feb. 2011 - Bixby says reeeee-lax!

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by braddillman, Sep 5, 2010.

  1. braddillman

    braddillman Mouseketeer

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    Hurricane Earl is gone now, only a couple of branches down and about an hour of powerless-ness. Not much planned for this weekend :rolleyes1, we had no idea what Earl would bring. So, having enjoyed others’ pre- and post-trip reports, I thought I’d collaborate.

    Our crew: me (DH), DW, DD12, DD10, DS8. We live quite near the Halifax airport in Nova Scotia. We’ve been going to Orlando every 2-3 years since our first visit in 1999. Lucky me, I’ve been by myself on business a few times as well. :thumbsup2

    Our last trip was in April 2008 for 10 days to WDW. We stayed at our usual place, The Fountains timeshare condo on I-drive that we purchased back in 1999. Our oldest DD’s best friend, mother and sister accompanied us, and we just piled in to the 2-BR. But we were all fairly busy, so it didn’t seem so crowded. Back then we had 7 day WDW passes with water parks - and boy, everybody loved the water parks. There aren’t any here in Nova Scotia. Spent 2 days in TL, 1 in BB.

    Lessons learned from 2008: next time, slow down and relax more. :hippie: Don’t share accomodations with others (although that wasn’t a mistake, don’t regret it), have even more space to ourselves. Don’t go early and stay late to try to make the most of every day; instead, just chill more. Also, kids’ don’t mind eating packaged snacks from the backpack while waiting in line - they realized that if they left the line to go purchase snacks, they’d ride less. So that was a win-win. popcorn::

    Evening routine was: 1 parent takes kids to pool, other throws something in the oven, e.g. frozen pizza, chicken nuggets. Unwrap some packaged salad. Cooking like Peggy Bundy.:eek: Way cheaper, less wasted time, and actually more relaxing than waiting in line at a restaurant. Kids want chicken nuggets and pizza anyway, and they typically don’t finish the large restaurant portions. That’s our opinion anyway. Certainly the kids’ didn’t complain for the restaurant over the pool, and even the parent doing the cooking (defrosting) got a chance to flake out on the couch while the oven did all the work. We did go to Golden Corral once, and the kids’ loved the self-serve ice cream.

    This next trip will be Feb. 11th, 2010 - Feb. 26th. 15 days! Our longest ever. This is because the Canada games will be held in Halifax at that time, and their giving the kids a 2-week break then instead of the regular spring break. They say its to let the kids enjoy the games; they forget to mention they need the school facilities to run the games. ;-)

    We’ll stay at The Fountains condo again. We’ve looked at other places, I’ve tried a couple when I was in Orlando on business, but we never find any place we like as much.

    Back in March 2010 we booked the flight through Aeroplan, learned a lot here: http://www.flyertalk.com/. :thumbsup2 We looked until we found 3 seats together on aeroplan, and grabbed them. Next morning, we got lucky and found 2 more seats on the same flights down and back - almost. Down is the same, we leave early and arrive at noon on Friday. Back we take the same first leg to Toronto, then the boys head off for Montreal, while the girls go direct to Halifax. Just like the Amazing Race (one of the TV shows we follow). But this cost $1,400 in fees and tax, and its so convenient to leave from Halifax than try to drive to say, Portland ME (though I keep thinking of it).

    Next we booked a minivan for ~$270/week from Alamo. The plan is to keep looking for a better deal, and if we find one take it and cancel this one. Haven’t found a better deal yet, probably won’t.

    Since we did WDW last time, we want to do USF/IoA this year. We prefer it to WDW, though there’s nothing wrong with WDW. So my first thought was Orlando FlexPass x 5. But as I did some research on these boards, I changed to buy a Universal premier AP because of the $15/day parking cost. My reasoning is: it would be nice to be able to just drop in on the spur of the moment, and just do a ride or two before supper. But I’d never pay $15 to park if that was the only time in the park that day... which made me realize I’d tend to go earlier and stay longer to get my $15 worth... which reminded me of last time. If I bought the AP, then I wouldn’t obsess over parking. I moved up to the premier AP because you get valet parking, which would save even more walking time for a short visit, because you arrive right at citywalk instead of across the street in the giant garage. I could probably use that exercise, but the kids don’t need it and I don’t want to wear them down late in the say. So, 4 x FlexPasses and 1 premier AP. I haven’t decided on SeaWorld/Aquatica/Wet-n-Wild yet, but may just get another AP for similar reasons.

    Other than that, I’m not sure we need much planning. It’ll be colder in February I expect, we tend to go in Sept, Oct or April. If the weather is warm enough for Aquatica, I think that’ll be our priority. If it’s raining, the girls can go shopping and the guys might go on some inside rides or play video games. DW would like to go to the beach, probably Atlantic - any suggestions? :confused3

    We haven’t been to SeaWorld or Aquatica yet. I’m pretty sure we’d like Aquatica. DS8 loves all animals, SW will probably be his favourite. We’ll try to feed some dolphins, etc. while we’re there.

    I’m looking forward to WWoHP, having read the books. DW is a coaster fan, looking forward to HRRR. DD12 wants to do everything. DD10 loves the water, as does DS8. DS8 and DD10 are looking forward to Seuss Landing. But the family does agree on our favourite ride of all - Popeye and Bluto’s barges. :worship:

    Kids want to go to Golden Corral for the ice cream, so I’ll take them and DW can go elsewhere - she has a terrible reaction to MSG, and everything at GC (except the carving station) has it we were told. They even spray it over the salad bar they said, not sure if I believe that, but DW wasn’t taking any chances, her reaction is quite severe and lasts over 24h :scared1: .

    Other than that, no specific restaurants planned, but we’ll probably decide to do one or two. I love Panera Bread, but I think the kids would prefer Ponderosa. Maybe Margaritaville nachos for lunch, or Pastamore - everyone but me loves italian food (I like it, just not my favourite). DW and I might leave DD12 in charge one night and sneak off to something like Cafe Tu Tu Tango or the Ale House (DW loves hockey!). Not sure about that one, but we don’t have to decide until we’re there.

    Also, The Fountains has some pretty good on-site activities, at least according to my kids. And the pool is pretty big, has a couple of longer water slides, etc. The kids like making crafts, and last trip there was a bonfire and sing-a-long next to the lake. They wouldn’t miss that if it’s there again. :banana:
     
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  3. vleeth

    vleeth I heart Disney

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    Great pre-trip report! The weather in Feb can go either way. We went to Disney one year in early Jan. Only one day did we need sweaters and coats. The other days were short-sleeve shirts.:thumbsup2
     
  4. braddillman

    braddillman Mouseketeer

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    So, we have The Fountains booked for 14 days, they don`t let us book any more than that in 1 block. I tried phoning back to make a separate reservation, but they won`t take cash for less than 2 days. I had a couple more complex things to try, but I gave up and booked 1 night (our last) at RPR. It`s a water view but that won`t matter much since we`ll be in the park all day using the room tickets. My premier AP might get us an upgrade to club level if any are available. :woohoo:

    The plan is to use the room keys for an all-you-can-ride blow-out on the last full day there. The best case result: the kids are sick and bored of rides, and don't miss them on the flight home. Probably not gonna happen.

    We`re about to cancel the minivan reservation, since adding an extra driver was costly. We got a reservation through costco for a full size which includes 2 drivers for about $400 less than the minivan. We can spend the difference on kids`clothes at the outlet mall.

    I have premier AP to USF/IoA and an AP to SeaWorld/Aquatica, the others have the FlexPass. We keep thinking of Busch Gardens and rejecting it, we don't want to overwhelm ourselves with too much to do. Gotta hang out around the resort some, too. :cloud9:

    I was surprised to discover Mardi Gras is on while we're there, but they still haven't announced the concert performers. Also, Bands Brews and BBQs is on the same nights at SeaWorld, with Huey Lewis and the News on Saturday, and Willie Nelson the next. Also discovered TNA iMPACT! and Against All Odds are on too, but we're not fans (I only mention it in case someone else is).

    We heard about the Dudley Do Right fire, and my oldest is disappointed, she was looking forward to that one. The younger two will come and ask to be measured for height every week or two, both are around 52". The kids are getting excited, watching a few YouTube videos of Mardi Gras, etc. :happytv:

    I keep meeting people from around the Halifax area who also have the two week break and are also headed to Orlando. Most are going to Disney. If I need an ice breaker to start a conversation, I think I'll open with "So, what part of Halifax are you from?" :rotfl:

    We just bought 3 new Via Rail suitcases on sales at Zellers, $37.50 each (25" hardsides) with a 10-year warranty. Good sale, I think. :thumbsup2

    I just submitted my passport, should be back by Jan 20, plenty of time. It would expire 6 months before my return travel date (but not before my entry date), didn't want to take any chances. All others are up-to-date.

    In summary: 1st day (Fri Feb 11): travel, settle into condo, buy groceries. 2nd day: Mardi Gras parade. Last day: all-you-can-ride courtesy RPR rooom keys. Still hoping for some relaxation in there somewhere.

    If only we get 1 or 2 days that are warm enough for Aquatica. :rolleyes:
     
  5. Metro West

    Metro West <font color=red>Proud Redhead<br><font color=blue> Moderator

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    Here's a partial listing from Screamscape. These are not all headline acts but more will be added later.

    2/19/11 – Lil Malcolm & The House Rockers
    2/20/11 – Lil Malcolm & The House Rockers
    2/20/11 – KC & The Sunshine Band
    2/26/11 – Josh Lisi
    3/05/11 – Grady Champion
    3/05/11 – Lynyrd Skynyrd
    4/09/11 – Rockin’ Jake
    4/23/11 – Daddy Mack Blues Band
     
  6. braddillman

    braddillman Mouseketeer

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    Thx Metro. I never heard of Screamscape, but will surf my way through it now.
     
  7. braddillman

    braddillman Mouseketeer

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    I never did write a trip report for this. Already planning to drive down for Christmas 2013 and New Year's. Looking for tips on driving, and what universal crowds are like at Christmas.

    Well, everything went according to plan. And, 15 days in a row of pretty much perfect weather. Never so hot we had to hide in the air conditioning, never so cold we couldn't go swimming.

    We did have a relaxing time, and would recommend the flexpasses. They worked as expected.

    Getting annual passes based on saving parking costs was also a win. I'd recommend it, but I think their cost is higher, so you should do your own calculation based on your number of days, etc. We LOVED the valet parking with the premium pass, though it didn't really save any time since we had to wait for someone to fetch our car. But it just felt really special. My brother-in-law tagged along with us, and I think the valet parking was his favourite part (or maybe it was Dr. Doom's ride ;-).

    Costco was just a short drive away, about 10 minutes, simple to find. Canadian Costco memberships work fine (ours did). Because of the relaxed pace, we did costco steaks on the Fountains BBQ a couple of nights. Big win! I know some people don't want to cook on vacation because they think it's a chore, but if you look on it as a pleasure, like BBQ and beer it's a lot of fun. Another plug for offsite (vs. onsite).

    For entertainment, we saw the B-52's at Mardi Gras. Got a bunch of beads, too - I guess they were throwing them out anyway.

    Also saw Huey Lewis and the News and Seaworld's Blues, Brews and BBQs. Beers were OK, I like craft brewing. You can buy a lanyard with punches for 12 (or was it 18?) samples (4oz or 6oz? can't remember). The small size was nice, so you could sample lots.

    Kids loved Aquatica, even better than Disney waterparks. Myself I prefer the Disney waterparks.

    The last day we checked out of The Fountains very early and went to RPR. Spent the day doing highlights and favourites with our front-of-the-line room keys, in a last day all-you-can-ride blowout. Great plan, to end on a high note. But the kids were VERY surprised at how small a hotel room is, compared with a condo. They appreciate the condo a LOT more now, now that they've experienced the alternative.
     
  8. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    Brad, I was surprised to see this pop up! I found it really funny, because that was our last trip, and we had the flexpasses too. Yes, all of Halifax WAS there. We had arranged to meet some friends at Seaworld and ran into another family from our school the same day. The day we tried out Wet and Wild we were chatting on the way in with a family from Enfield. I'm sure we met at least one other group of Haligonians.

    I wonder if we walked by you at WWoHP! Or Costco! :rotfl: We certainly didn't see the B 52's though, that would've been cool. (Both my kids now have "Rock Lobster" and "Planet Clare" on their ipods.)

    We found that first week a little chilly--we were in a house, and while the A/C worked great, the furnace wasn't quite so effective. I'm told they just don't bother much! (Like the opposite of us with a/c vs heat!) But we didn't complain about the temps when touring, it was great for us.
     
  9. braddillman

    braddillman Mouseketeer

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    Yeah, come to think of it we held off on Aquatica until the second week. Lots of Haligonians there for the same reason - the Canada Games.

    We just drove down to Bartertown - sorry, I mean Watertown, NY for supper at the olive garden. My oldest is 15 today, and we did some shopping.

    We talked about the drive next December on our way back. She suggested we get the Harry Potter DVD game so the 3 kids could play it on the minivan DVD player. Or watch all 8 movies (we'll have enough time ;-). I didn't realize they were so taken with HP.
     

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