Roll Out Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer: an August Trip Report (Complete!)

Discussion in 'Orlando Hotels and Attractions' started by Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina, Sep 4, 2013.

  1. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    Welcome to my trip report :goodvibes . I always find it difficult to find a starting point for these threads, so I figure I’ll just jump right in and start with the obligatory introductions. While a little background will follow, I’ll try to keep it brief (and if not brief, a concept of which is hard for me at the best of times, hopefully it will end up being a least relevant!!).

    Moving right along, let me get you acquainted with my little family. This is us (picture taken August 2012 on our vacation in Orlando):

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    I’m Gina, writer of this report and the official family planner, organizer, and obsesser. I am not ashamed to admit that I have OCD to a certain degree…..depending on the day, that degree can vary from mild to wild :rotfl:. When it comes to our family getaways, I probably put more time and effort into researching every last little detail than the average mom, but its fun and I enjoy it and quite honestly, I could be doing worse things with my time. And my fellows are patient with my nightly blabbering about the neat things I have found for us to do on our next trip. One of the many reason that I love that pair.

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    DH is Steve. My “Prince Charming”, and the total opposite personality from me. He’s quieter, calmer, and very “go with the flow”, which normally creates a very happy balance around our house (except for the times where we drive each other NUTS….which thankfully, is normally not very often). He is one of the hardest workers I know, and his efforts net the surplus finances required to fund our expeditions to Florida. We celebrated our 20th anniversary this past May.

    DS is Jake. He is 17 (will be turning 18 in January) and an amazing young man. He’s an honour roll student at school and a talented athlete (volleyball and basketball, as well as ball, inline and ice hockey in his younger years) . He has worked for a year and a half at our local YMCA in the youth and programming departments, and has a wonderful knack with kids. He’s our “lonely only”, and yep, I shamelessly admit to spoiling him from time to time. He has just kicked off his senior year of high school. This pic is from June, where he was awarded the Dave Coyer Memorial Trophy for most dedicated senior boys volleyball player:

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    This trip was our fifth getaway to Orlando. Our first visit was in January 2009, which was supposed to be our “once in a lifetime” Disney vacation. But then something we didn’t expect occurred….we were bitten by the bug. It took us 3 years to return (for various reason), but then we enjoyed 3 separate visits in 2012 (falling in January, August and Christmas week). With each vacation, we grew to love Orlando (and all the family fun it offers) even more, so it wasn’t surprising that we began to plan our 2013 August vacation while on the plane home from our Florida Christmas extravaganza (see the link in my signature for the finished report of that getaway).

    And so began the planning at 40,000 feet in the air.

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  3. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    It took us a couple of weeks from the time we returned from our Christmas trip until we actually booked our vacation package for August 2013. Not because we had difficulty narrowing down our dates (we knew it would have to be the last week of August, as Jake works full time during the summers as a counsellor at the summer camps at our local Y, and the last week of summer vacation is historically the week with the lowest enrollment, meaning its generally the easiest for him to book off). Rather, it took us a couple of weeks to decide where we wanted to stay.

    For this trip, we knew we wanted a resort (like last August) as opposed to a hotel (which we had for our Christmas trip). For the summer trips, we like to take it a little easier, do less parks, and enjoy the amenities generally only available at resort properties (such as multiple pools, mini golf, etc.). While the Residence Inn SeaWorld was perfect for our winter trip (where parks and attractions were our main focus, and little time was planned on being spent in our room), a similar property wouldn’t have worked as well for August. We wanted a spacious villa with 2 bedrooms that was centrally located with a good reputation. We also wanted to try somewhere new.

    Now, for those that are wondering "why didn't they stay onsite?"....while our onsite accommodations at POR in 2009 were adequate, we quickly learned that cramming us into a small hotel room for a week (even amidst the "magic" of Disney) was not our idea of a vacation. We love the Disney theming, but we just didn't enjoy those tiny little rooms. We find the magic in offsite space, amenities and (as an added bonus!) price. So to be quite honest, we didn't even factor in the option of staying at a Disney resort, though it was fun to compare prices afterward of what we would eventually pay for our beautiful 1200+ square food villa vs. a 260 foot room a value with the most basic amenities. We are offsite cheerleaders :cheer2: so that's where our search began.

    From our stay at Westgate Lakes last August.....

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    After two weeks of exhaustive research (and wayyy too many hours on TripAdvisor and the Dis ::yes::), we had it narrowed down to Wyndham Bonnet Creek and the Sheraton Vistana Resort. I went back and forth between the two properties, endlessly discussing with the boys the pros and cons of each. Their eyes eventually glassed over, and they dutifully handed the decision over to yours truly.....after all, they trust dear ol' Mom :thumbsup2 . In the end, I decided on the Vistana for two very simple reasons: one, we wouldn’t have to go through Vacation Strategy for the villa reservation (even though I knew others had enjoyed great success when booking through them, it was venturing into the unknown for me), and the Jetblue Getaways package of flights plus accommodations for the Vistana was cheaper than flights + a Vacations Strategy booking of Bonnet Creek. Being the thrifty girl I am, it seemed that if price and convenience were both aligned, I had quite obviously found the answer to my endless search. The Vistana it was going to be.

    From our stay at the Vistana:

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    Gosh, I miss it already!!!! :sad:

    But I digress. Back to the report! :rolleyes2

    With the getaway package purchased, our dates were set: flying from Syracuse, New York via our beloved Jetblue, we would arrive in Orlando on Friday, August 23rd and return home on Saturday, August 31st. The countdown had officially begun! :cool1:
     
  4. shalom

    shalom DIS Veteran

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    Yay! A Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina trip report! My day is looking UP! :yay:

    Yeah, this sounds familiar. :p My boys are just the same. As are two of the girls, really -- number three will participate, but I think that's partly because she's gone enough she doesn't hear as much of it. :upsidedow It is a lovely moment when the stars align and you know, "Yep, that's the one." :)
     
  5. Ted in Halifax

    Ted in Halifax Over a 2,000 mile drive from Disney!

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    I can see your son grow up in between trip reports! :thumbsup2
     
  6. greenclan67

    greenclan67 Callie35

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    Ready to read!! Get typin!
     
  7. pigletto

    pigletto DIS Veteran

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    I'm in!!!:cool1:
     
  8. ginny_lynn

    ginny_lynn Mouseketeer

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    Hi! I enjoyed your previous trip reports and look forward to his one!
     
  9. Disneylover99

    Disneylover99 DIS Veteran

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    Love the pics!!! can't wait to read more! :thumbsup2 The thought of staying in a 1200 sq. foot villa after vacationing at Pop seems heavenly! :cloud9:
     
  10. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    Aw, thanks! :goodvibes Glad to have you back!

    Isn't it amazing the difference a year (or even just the time since Christmas) makes? Of course, I also look at the pictures of myself and think "holy crap, I look so much older in these pictures than I did on our last vacation!!" :rotfl: . So I guess the maturing of my kiddo shouldn't surprise me.

    Yay! Happy to have you both along!

    Thank you! :goodvibes Welcome back!

    Thanks! :) Hopefully Photobucket behaves and I can get lots more photos up for your viewing pleasure.

    More to come shortly! popcorn::
     
  11. lolale

    lolale Earning My Ears

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    Love your trip reports! Although my kids are much younger than your baby, I still take so much useful info from your reports...and they are fun to read... And your from eastern Ontario, too. Looking forward to more updates....
     
  12. Zabnee

    Zabnee Mouseketeer

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    Count me in! (thanks for posting the heads up in the Canadian forum!) :cool1:
     
  13. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    So.......lets fast-forward from January to August. Cause really, no one gives a hoot what happened between the booking of the trip and the departure day :rotfl:. Lets just say I enjoyed the planning process immensely (as always), and give a big shout out to my fellow Canuck, bankr63, who very patiently answered all my questions and indulged me with photos and PDFs from his March Break getaway at the Vistana to help me pass the waiting time :thumbsup2. I hope he knows how much I appreciated his kindness!! And for anyone looking for the scoop on the Sheraton Vistana Resort (not the Villages.....different properties), be sure to check out the awesome threads here:

    http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3148502

    http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2088957

    So, it was finally departure day! Even though we had an afternoon flight on the 23rd, we opted to go up the even prior and spend the night at a park-and-fly hotel. Since Jake had to work until 5 pm on Thursday the 22nd, we didnt get on the road until shortly thereafter. We stopped about 35 minutes from home in Napanee to feed the boy, who was starving after a long day of entertaining the kiddos at summer camp. We opted for a quick meal at Wendys, for the sole reason that it was just off the 401 and we could dine speedily and be on our way. Having no idea how congested the border crossing would be at Alexandria Bay, we really didnt want to dawdle.

    Happily, there was virtually no line at the border (we literally waited behind only two cars) and were through in less than 5 minutes from the time we pulled up. Woot, woot! Once onto American soil, we completed the easy commute to Syracuse through the sleepy New York countryside, and we were reminded once again of why we love flying from Syracuse so much more than from Toronto or Buffalo. Its generally a very peaceful, traffic-free journey.

    By early evening, we had arrived.

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    Despite having a less than stellar experience at the Candlewood Suites Syracuse Airport in August 2012, we ended up there again this year for the sole reason that we could stay the night in a one-bedroom suite at this hotel, pay the additional 7 nights parking fee AND get a free shuttle to the terminal for less than the cost of 8 days parking at the airport (thank you, Priority Club points!). So we voted (as a family) to give it another shot....after all, it was for only one night, and the location was excellent. And you know what? There were definite improvements this time around. The building didnt have the smoky stench of last year, and our non-smoking suite was sparkling clean and smelled great. Definitely redeemed itself and was a very acceptable place to stay.

    Some pics of our suite....

    The living area:

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    The kitchen:

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    The bedroom (holy tiny bed, Batman! Must have been a double....we elbowed each other all night long!!!):

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    And finally, the bathroom:

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    The staff were once again very friendly (as they were last year, too...they were one of the reasons we were willing to give this property a second kick at the cat) and the shuttle drivers were awesome (both to and from the airport).

    We spent a quiet night relaxing and watching TV, then we were off to bed. In the morning, Steve went across the street and brought back Tim Hortons for breakfast, we showered and packed up, and eventually had lunch at Burger King before beckoning the shuttle for our pilgrimage to the airport. :banana:
     
  14. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    Hello, fellow Canucks! :wave2: Welcome aboard! :goodvibes
     
  15. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    We had the shuttle all to ourselves, which was lovely. Nothing like private airport transportation :thumbsup2 . Having no other guests aboard was particularly nice, as we had lots of room and we didn't feel like we needed to be calm and collected for someone else's sake. We could let all our exuberance spill out and have a little light-hearted fun. We really are just a trio of very big kids sometimes. :goodvibes

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    At the airport, we checked out the interactive flight exhibits that they now have on the first floor of the terminal. I managed to talk Jake into a pic with the plane, but he flatly refused to climb into the cockpit and pretend he was flying it. Party pooper! :lmao:

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    We had upgraded our Jetblue seats at the 24-hour mark to the Even More Space section, so the boys were excited about having all the extra legroom. Turns out the upgrade also entitled us to a special Even More Speed priority security line, which meant we were able to get through security with absolutely zero wait at all....we walked right up, put our stuff in the bins, and were through in a heartbeat.

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    That meant we had way more time waiting at the gate than we planned, but no matter....we knew it wouldnt be long until we were on our way. We all took our Gravol at exactly one hour before departure, and we Facebooked on the laptop to pass the time until boarding.

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    We boarded and had a very smooth flight, from take-off to landing:

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    As many of you know, I don't always fly well (yep, I have some very personal experience with those barf bags on the back of the seats :crazy2:) so we were all thrilled when I experienced no air sickness at all and was feeling mighty fine when we landed.

    At 6:30 pm, we touched down at MCO, and were off to collect our luggage and the rental car :drive:. We were finally here!
     
  16. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    First stop was the luggage pick up. I had hoped that this would go quickly, as I knew Jake was long past the “hungry” stage and was approaching potentially starving to death :rolleyes:. He is a 17 year old boy, after all.

    Sadly, the luggage Gods had other plans, and two of our suitcases were literally the last two pieces of luggage put on the carousel. Seriously. The bright spot here was that, by that time, the crowds had dispersed quite a bit so we were able to grab our stuff and make a beeline for the rental car pick up. I had already done online check-in for our vehicle before leaving home, which meant we could bypass the counter and the kiosk and go straight to the garage. One of the reasons I adore renting from Alamo. :wizard:

    We arrived at the garage and headed to the standard SUV aisle, which had a remarkably decent selection of vehicles. Since I didn’t plan on driving the dang thing unless absolutely necessary, I let the boys pick out our wheels. I knew they would enjoy picking out “the one”, where quite frankly, I didn’t give a hoot. They settled on a shiny red Jeep Grand Cherokee, which gave us all a comfortable ride (even for Jake in the back seat) and had tons of room for our luggage:

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    By this point in time, it was starting to get late, we were all growing weary after a day of travelling, and Jake was nearly passing out from malnutrition :rolleyes1, so we unanimously agreed on Cici’s Pizza for a fast (and filling) dinner. An added bonus was that it was super close to the Vistana, so once the fellows had their fill, we were literally almost there. The check-in process was super fast (of course, it was about 8:30 pm at this point, so most of the day’s arrivals had probably already checked in) and we were elated to find out we had been assigned to the Spas section as we had requested 2 weeks prior via Diamond Lane pre-registration. In fact, they honoured EVERY request we had...Spas section, top floor, close to pools. We were “welcomed home” by a wonderful Sheraton clerk, given maps and activity schedules and a whole selection of information about the resort, then mercifully.....we arrived shortly thereafter at the front door of our building.

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    I couldn't wait to get inside! :hyper:
     
  17. pigletto

    pigletto DIS Veteran

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    Awesome updates!!! And I am so glad you decided to go with the SUV afterall. When I was still following the August rentals you were booked with for a midsize with National. Alamo must have had some more good deals! I love them too! And the Grand Cherokee is way better than a mid size:thumbsup2.

    Now I can hardly wait to see inside your room either!:)
     
  18. Debbie

    Debbie <font color=blue><marquee>DIScovering DIS magic</m

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    Looking forward to seeing pics of the inside, too!
     
  19. My2Qtz0205

    My2Qtz0205 DIS Veteran

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    I thought your name sounded familiar. We were both on the December 2012 thread. I need to find your trip report from that trip.
     
  20. wdwnomad

    wdwnomad DIS Veteran

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    Hi there Gina. I was looking forward to your TR. I always enjoyed following along with your trips. I started reading them because my family went to Sea World and Aquatica this year and you always had so much insight to those parks.

    However, I do have a confession, we walked right by you when you were in Downtown Disney. I didn't say anything because well I didn't want to come across as a stalker. I read lots of trip reports and I always wonder if I would recognize anyone. Well I finally did!!! I thought to myself that was Gina Bo-Bo (I am not good with names but got part of it right).

    Anyway, hope you had a good time.
     
  21. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    The entire time we were watching vehicle prices, I knew DH really wanted Alamo over National, as its "familiar" too him and we know the processes. Add that to the concern over our eligibility for the KLM Flying Blue code, and we decided it might be worth paying a little more to have peace of mind. When the rates finally dropped for our dates with Alamo, the standard SUV was cheaper than the midsize, so we snapped up the larger vehicle. We drive a Dodge Journey at home, and could have had one of those if we wanted.....there were several on the standard SUV aisle when we picked out the Cherokee....but just to try something different, the guys settled on the Jeep.

    I just couldn't bring myself to downgrade to the full size car, when I knew DH would love the SUV so much more. Ah, the things I do for that guy :goodvibes .

    It was a great vehicle and he really enjoyed driving it. Harder on gas than our Journey, but VERY comfy :thumbsup2 .

    Hopefully by later today! Stay tuned! :) And glad to have you along :goodvibes .

    Hey there, good to see you! :wave2:

    The link to my December report is in my signature as well (the SMALL print), if you want to check it out too.

    OMG, you should have TOTALLY said hello!!!! That would have been so cool!!! (I never worry about stalkers when I'm out and about with my guys.....lol, you have seen the size of them, right??? :rotfl:)

    We did have a great time.....we thought the weather was pretty spectacular (I will definitely not complain about 3 little afternoon thunderstorms over the course of the week). I hope you had an enjoyable trip as well!
     

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