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 Canadas 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 were 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. Im cheap. No, make that *thrifty* . We dont 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 were bringing the dog. 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 shes small enough to travel with us. I hope she doesnt 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 hes even *thriftier* and we usually run into his cold feet when it comes to booking. So I was almost speechless when he said lets do it and then actually booked the time off work. Ds is in junior high now, and I dont 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 were 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 heres the current status of planning: We have our air tickets. Weve booked our villa and sent the deposit. Were making a list of our favourite US restaurants, and shopping spots. Im thinking its a good time to do some back-to-school clothes shopping for the kids. Ive found retailers for our brand of dog food (which Ive 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. We loved WWoHP in 2010, and thats really whats pulling us back. Ds was lucky enough to get his wand at Ollivanders 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 Ollivanders 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 thats 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 wouldnt be enough to get us there, but well poke around and see what else is fun. We enjoyed Seaworld and Aquatica a lot last time, and Im 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 isnt everyones 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 were 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 its sooo expensive now that my 13 and 10 year olds are adults. I think Dinner with Shamu will be our sub for that one. Im happy that one day at Legoland and some quality time in the Wizarding World are our only must-dos. We are really looking forward to spreading out in our lovely big house, getting lots of pool and hot tub time , and enjoying American culinary highlights like Cracker Barrel and Waffle House. Oh, and that frozen key lime pie you can get at Publix yum! Im also looking forward to hassle-free travel. In recent years weve driven from NS to NH to fly SWA out of Manchester NH. (Yeah. Thrifty.) Its 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 dont remember the last time we had ONE accommodation reservation for a trip. Last time, lets see, there were two nights on the road with family, two nights at hotels in NH pre-/post-flight, and our selected villa wasnt 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 its time to go back to the airport two weeks later. Get on a plane around lunch time and were back in our own beds that night. Lots more planning to do. And what shall I put on the t shirts this time??