TR: Without the Mouse, Round 2. Flexpasses, Lego & a villa *Final Update Oct 14*

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by coastgirl, Feb 9, 2013.

  1. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    Here I sit on a February morning, watching the snow fall, dreaming of better things!

    We first took the kids to Disney in 2006, when ds was 5 and dd was 3. Neither dh nor I had been to a theme park as kids or adults (unless you count that one day at Canada’s Wonderland back in ’87…). It was pretty special, with a princess-loving girl and a Stitch-loving boy. We returned to Disney two more times, and took a Disney cruise 5 years ago…aaaaand we’re done with Disney. Pretty much, anyway.

    We have looked for other affordable family trips, and we keep getting pulled back to Orlando. Two years ago we rented a house for the first time and got the Orlando Flexpass so we could take the kids to WWoHP. We had a great time.

    A few things you need to know. I’m cheap. :goodvibes No, make that *thrifty* . We don’t like crowds. (Which goes well with cheap usually, as we have lots of reasons to prefer the off-season.) I have been known to make my family wear matching t-shirts. And we’re bringing the dog. :dogdance:

    We live in Nova Scotia, Canada. Dh and I are ~ahem~ older parents (late bloomers!) to a 12.5 year old son and a 10-years-old-next week daughter. In November we acquired our first dog, a little Havanese we named Feliz. (Which means “Happy” in Spanish apparently.) One of the many reasons we chose that breed is that she’s small enough to travel with us. I hope she doesn’t get air-sick!

    We have been “thrifty” for the past two years and took vacations we could drive to, in Canada. Fun, yep. Fun, fun, fun. But that last trip to Fl, we had a really nice house with our own pool for about 100 bucks a night, and days with Harry Potter, and it was nice and warm, and, and…

    So here we are with Orlando in the plans again. Thrifty me has been collected “Air miles” for, oh, three or four years now, and I finally had almost enough to get us there.

    Dh, God love ‘im, loves to plan as much as I do, but he’s even *thriftier* and we usually run into his cold feet when it comes to booking. So I was almost speechless when he said “let’s do it” and then actually booked the time off work.

    Ds is in junior high now, and I don’t feel right taking him out for more than a day or two, AND I hate travelling for only one week, so summer vacation seems the only option. But add back the cheap and hates crowds, so we picked as late in August as we could…Aug 10-24. Lots of US school districts are back in school by then, and we’re right on the cusp of the shoulder season.

    After some serious obsessing about Air Miles points and available flights, we booked Halifax-Orlando on Air Canada. I paid about $1000 in taxes and fees for our “free” tickets, but to buy four tickets on that route would be between $3200-$4000, depending on whether I could get a seat sale. We also found a great villa in Emerald Island resort. Pet-friendly too!

    So here’s the current status of planning:

    We have our air tickets. We’ve booked our villa and sent the deposit. We’re making a list of our favourite US restaurants, and shopping spots. I’m thinking it’s a good time to do some back-to-school clothes shopping for the kids. I’ve found retailers for our brand of dog food (which I’ve been warned maybe inadvisable to try to carry across the border). Got the forms for renewing our passports. Decided on Flexpasses, as we have two full weeks. What with the cheap and hating crowds parts, the Flexpass gives us lots of options, and we can visit for a few hours at a time, rather than trying to “make the most” of a few specific park days.

    Still need to figure out the best value/configuration for tickets. I have enough FF points in another account to buy some portion of our tickets that way, but need to work out the best deal.

    My ds, though he will be a newly-minted teen by then (turns 13 a week before we leave) is a serious Lego nerd, so we are adding a day at Legoland to the list. Dd is also looking forward to it, as she has been “dragged along” a little on the whole Lego thing, but loves the Lego Harry Potter stuff, and the new Lego Friends line. (Best Thing Ever from Lego for girls, thankyouverymuch.)

    We are also serious Harry Potter nerds, as a family. :wizard: We loved WWoHP in 2010, and that’s really what’s pulling us back. Ds was lucky enough to get his wand at Ollivander’s last time, and it only seems fair that now that dd is turning 10, she should get a chance to get her wand too. Ds still says being selected at Ollivander’s is one of his greatest memories ever. I really hope dd gets the same experience, and we are prepared to line up several times if that’s what it takes. (I guess she has about a 1/20 chance of being selected, but hopefully young, cute and earnest will up her odds somewhat.) I love sharing this video, this is ds getting his wand in 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwBNDkZYuXw
    We are not thrill-riders, so the rest of US wouldn’t be enough to get us there, but we’ll poke around and see what else is fun.

    We enjoyed Seaworld and Aquatica a lot last time, and I’m looking forward to having more time there. Very nice parks, great family feel, and we love the combination of animal exhibits and rides. (We also really love Animal Kingdom for the same reasons, which I know isn’t everyone’s favourite Disney park.) I have discovered through this forum about “Dine with Shamu” and that seems like a really neat activity we will probably do.

    We like DTD a lot and will get most of our Disney fix that way. I think we’re also going to have to do the Stitch breakfast at the Poly, which has been a fixture of all our Orlando trips. I wanted to do another character meal, the Cinderella meal at the GF, but it’s sooo expensive now that my 13 and 10 year olds are “adults”. I think Dinner with Shamu will be our sub for that one.

    I’m happy that one day at Legoland and some quality time in the Wizarding World are our only must-do’s. We are really looking forward to spreading out in our lovely big house, getting lots of pool and hot tub time :beach:, and enjoying American culinary highlights like Cracker Barrel and Waffle House. Oh, and that frozen key lime pie you can get at Publix…yum!

    I’m also looking forward to hassle-free travel. In recent years we’ve driven from NS to NH to fly SWA out of Manchester NH. (Yeah. “Thrifty”.) It’s a 1000-km/10-hr drive just to get to the airport, which we usually break up with a stopover with family along the way. And I don’t remember the last time we had ONE accommodation reservation for a trip. Last time, let’s see, there were two nights on the road with family, two nights at hotels in NH pre-/post-flight, and our selected villa wasn’t available for the whole time, so we ended up with a few nights at Floridays. This time we get up out of our own beds on Saturday am and we are in Orlando by noon. We sleep in our villa that night, and stay there until it’s time to go back to the airport two weeks later. Get on a plane around lunch time and we’re back in our own beds that night.

    Lots more planning to do. And what shall I put on the t shirts this time??
    :rolleyes:
     
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  3. Metro West

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

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    Good start...keep updating. :thumbsup2
     
  4. Nancy for Disney

    Nancy for Disney DIS Veteran

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    Great start. Thanks for sharing. I am "thrifty" too so I look forward to reading your money saving tips
     
  5. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    I *wish* I had something to update! :bored: Mostly poking around, trying to wait patiently. Got a good restaurant recommendation today, does that count??

    Most of my good tips are from here--but always glad to find a kindred spirit! Here's one: tell the kids 6 months ahead of time so they can save their allowance and not ask me for souvenier money. Let's see if the six months of hyper is worth it! :hyper:
     
  6. Metro West

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

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    Which restaurant was recommended?
     
  7. schumigirl

    schumigirl It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts

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    Good report so far.

    I did enjoy the Olivanders video of your son.........I`ve never seen that as the queues have always been too long and my son is 19.....so no interest there. But like you we love the HP area :thumbsup2

    I love your description of being thrifty......my husband would love me to be thrifty....but I tell him being thrifty is not one of my gifts :rotfl:

    But it sounds like a fun trip....look forward to updates :)
     
  8. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    "Off park"...I asked about dim sum and someone recommended Ming Court on I Drive. Trip Advisor has mixed reviews on the service, but the food looks more interesting than your average sweet-and-sour chicken buffet...

    Thanks. I still get goose bumps when I look at that. It really was magical for him. I've been looking at some photos and TRs and such, and I can't wait to get back, it's such a cool opportunity to be totally immersed in our favourite fictional place.

    There are some things I want on a vacation that my dh still thinks are "extravagant", but we've been married 25 years so he knows when he's not going to win. And I think eventually he sees the wisdom of my choices.:rolleyes:

    Oh, an actual useful advance today: I got an email from the airline, with the dreaded "important changes to your scheduled flight". :eek: When I checked, our final leg home is actually improved--we had a 2.5 hr layover in Toronto, and it's down to 2 hrs now. This is a good thing! I wonder how many more schedule changes will happen between now and the time we actually get on the plane...
     
  9. Metro West

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

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    Ah OK...I've never been there. I try to stay away from I Drive whenever possible.
     
  10. HarleyGirl514

    HarleyGirl514 Earning My Ears

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    Haha! I thought I was the only one who did this! We are going in June and told the kids this weekend so they could start saving for their spending money! :rotfl: We've got a couple bdays, plus Valentine's day today before the trip-that's some good cash from the Grandmas for the trip!!
     
  11. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    HarleyGirl, we are so clever! :thumbsup2 Teaching them an important life lesson, too! (Not being cheap, not at all...;) )
     
  12. HarleyGirl514

    HarleyGirl514 Earning My Ears

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    I completely agree!! :thumbsup2 out of my 5 kiddos, I've got 3 that are being super vigilant about saving so far & two that are... Not so much! But my oldest has a list of all the items she wants to buy, complete with prices so she will spend her cash as wisely as she can!! Takes after her momma! :rotfl:
     
  13. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    Ooo, you found the Hogwart's ticker! I knew it existed, but couldn't locate it. I'm just gonna double-click yours so I can make my own...TY!
     
  14. HarleyGirl514

    HarleyGirl514 Earning My Ears

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    Did you get it to work? Here's the link in case you didn't! ;)
    http://distickers.com/ticker/stepone/vacation.html
     
  15. pas130

    pas130 Always missing Florida....

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    Another August traveler :yay: We are also considering Legoland this Summer...no WDW though. Tickets for 7 add too much to the total :confused:
     
  16. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    Oh, Pas, I hear you! I wish we could do a few days at Disney without it costing a fortune, but they really price it to keep you in their clutches longer rather than encouraging shorter visits. Seven tickets--I get hives paying for 4!

    Legoland has some good discounts usually, I understand. Right now we are probably going to get a "buy an adult ticket, get a kid in free" promo", which is only $80 through a Canadian loyalty program. If you look at the forum here, they seem to keep up on the discounts. http://www.legolandphotos.com/board/index.php There's also a Legoland contest on now on Facebook for 4 annual passes--not open to Canadians unfortunately. :sad1:
     
  17. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    Not much new, but enjoying a quiet morning thinking about August.

    Wanna see my doggie?? :lovestruc Let's see if I can remember how to post a picture here... She's the cutest little fuzz-bucket ever. I hope she enjoys coming on vacation with us. She flew to us from her breeder in November, as a 10 week old baby, and she arrived to us after 8 hrs happy, clean, and ready to play. She's really "bonded" to us--Havanese are known as "velcro dogs" because they just want to stick to you--and I think she'd hate being boarded or staying with a sitter. This time she'll be with us in the cabin during the flights, so we hope it'll be easy for her.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Here's one of me and my dd on Hallowe'en, Ravenclaw girls together. She's actually more of a Gryffindor, but I think she totally nailed the Moaning Myrtle look, and Myrtle is a Ravenclaw. (So, she's not sick, just wearing "ghost" makeup!)
    [​IMG]

    And this is our Christmas tree hunt in December. Note two Ravenclaw scarves and one Gryffindor. DH also has a Gryffindor scarf, but he was taking the pic. (The scarves were a HUGE project last Christmas, the first useful things I'd ever knit. And, curiously, the only useful things I've ever knit...it was a BIG project.)
    [​IMG]

    Now I guess I have to find one with dh in it. :goodvibes This is from our March break trip last year, to Quebec City. Yeah, it was a really neat place to visit. But I have totally had enough of snow.
    [​IMG]


    Here's the picture I'm focussing on for our August trip:
    [​IMG]
    It's the pool at the villa we've rented. :beach:
     
  18. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    Hi ya, coastgirl! :wave2: Great start to the pre-trip report so far!! Sounds like you have an AWESOME vacation planned. Time will pass quicker than you think for us office travellers, especially once the snow melts and the weather starts to warm up. And that's coming soon for us Canucks.......I hope!!!

    And for the record, there is nuttin' wrong with being thrifty. My wonderful next door neighbour, who by his own admission is as "frugal" (ahem! cheap! :rotfl:) as I am, has coined a term I love. He describes himself as "fiscally responsible" :thumbsup2. I LOVED THAT DESCRIPTION!! Sounds so much better than cheap ;) .
     
  19. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    Hey Gina! :wave2:

    "fiscally responsible" sounds a bit too much like our esteemed prime minister! :scared: Ha! (Shh! No politics, shame on me...)
     
  20. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    "Office" travellers? :scratchin I meant to type AUGUST travellers :rotfl2: . Office, August.....oh yeah, they're pretty close to the same :rolleyes2 . Clearly I should not type and watch TV at the same time :crazy2: .
     
  21. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    I thought it was a variation on "armchair traveller"...you know, sitting in the office, thinking about being somewhere else...:rolleyes:
     

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