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. pas130

    pas130 Always missing Florida....

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    We really loved Seaworld too...perhaps instead of Annual passes, I should price out Flex passes :):thumbsup2 But Legoland is good for younger kids...:faint: Decisions decisions . 2 rooms...7 tickets, adds up, I need to be more thrifty with vacations (I really am in real life at least)

    Same here! Very cute furbaby! And I love seeing family pics ::yes::

    :rotfl: I figured it was autocorrect! It's gonna be fun passing the next 5 months everyone here :beach:
     
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  3. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    Just looking for my last set of planning docs and came across some pics I can't help sharing. :) This is a screenshot of the letter I gave the kids before our last trip. We told them the night before we left. I made up envelopes with a wax seal too. (Can you say "Over the top" boys and girls?:lmao:)

    [​IMG]

    Here's the design for the t shirt I made everyone wear. Actually the kids still wear them, though they are growing out of them now. (Yes, I clumsily obscured our family name. The t shirts don't have a big ol' smudge on them.)

    [​IMG]

    And here's one I love of the kids in the queue for Flight of the Hippogriff. Is it any wonder my kid got picked to receive his wand at Ollivander's? Not exactly a double for young Harry, but a passing resemblance anyway. :lovestruc

    [​IMG]

    Ok, back to your regularly scheduled programming...
     
  4. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    TY pas. :) I am having fun thinking about all the possibilities right now! I do love the flexpass, though they could leave Wet and Wild out. :crazy2: I am looking forward to spending more time at Seaworld, it's very kid-friendly. I know, it's easy to get pulled into the trap of wanting to do everything, though. Laughing a little at your ticker line--"will Mommy be able to resist being so close?" :scratchin
     
  5. HarleyGirl514

    HarleyGirl514 Earning My Ears

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    I don't think you're over the top at all! That's because I did the same thing... :rotfl: You should have seen the commotion in my house when my five kiddos opened their letters!! All except the littlest two, who can't read... Hahaha! But they got the idea really quick! I love your shirts, too! Your kiddos are so cute!!
     
  6. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    :rotfl2: While that would be VERY accurate, it definitely is not what I was intending to say!!! :lmao:

    Shhhhhhh........don't tell my boss I'm Disboarding from work.........:blush: .
     
  7. Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina

    Gina-Gina-Bo-Bina DIS Veteran

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    Oh....also meant to say that I love the T's you made for the kiddos! :thumbsup2

    I would love to do matching shirts for our trips, but I'm sure my boys would.....uh......revolt :rotfl: . We did matching shirts every day for our 2009 Disney trip, when Jake was 13. It was fun and the pics look so good!!!

    I am just happy my boy still enjoys family vacations, even as he makes his way rather swiftly through his late teenage years. Guess I won't complain that he doesn't want to wear the special t-shirts anymore when he still approaches our getaways with vim and vigor (he would hate that I said that :lmao: .... which makes it all the more fun). But you can bet your boots that I'll be dressing my grandbabies in matching tye-dyes when the time comes!!!! (but please, please, please let that be at least 10 years off..........just sayin').
     
  8. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    Neat. Now I know I'm among friends! :yay: Glad you didn't make the little ones wait around at the station for years like Ginny.

    I must be clairvoyant.:rolleyes1

    I loved that about your TR, that he's not too cool to hang out with his folks. When I mentioned something about "matching tshirts" for this trip, dh rolled his eyes and both kids said "we love the tshirts!" Yeah. Not for long maybe, but one more trip! The thing is, you get so much positive feedback when you wear them, we had so many people comment on them--in a good way. The people who roll their eyes at least do so silently and are easy to ignore. :rotfl: Also ds was wearing his mom-made t when he got picked at Ollivander's, so I'm considering doing an edit on the old design and reusing it, to see if it's good luck for dd. She'd totally be willing to give that a try. pixiedust:

    She has a really cool shirt from thinkgeek, let's see if I can find it...
    http://www.ugo.com/the-goods/geek-gear-you-can-wear-in-public-harry-potter-shirt I am considering recreating a set of these for the family, in appropriate sizes/houses. Looks like thinkgeek isn't selling it anymore, and it only came in teeny sizes anyway.
     
  9. pas130

    pas130 Always missing Florida....

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    My DH says the same thing....stop adding more stuff :p I am trying! They all loved SW, feeding Stingrays even. Here's a tip. $5 for 3-4 raw shrimp....wonder if you can bring your own....it's right when you walk in so you wouldn't carry them around all day. :confused3 Trust me the only thing keeping me from WDW is the $$$ :rolleyes:

    We LOVE Hippogriff, last visit the ride stalled up top for quite a bit...August it's on!!!!! Your DS does sport a resemblance to young Harry :goodvibes

    Never ! :)

    Me too!!! On the Ts!

    On being happy my DS likes family vacations

    And on the grandbabies ;)
     
  10. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    LOL on the grandbabies. I still get nostalgic when I see a toddler or a preschooler, but am starting to reconcile myself to the next good opportunity to regularly snuggle little ones being grandbabies, but not for a long, loooong time. My ds, 12, wants to wait until he's 30 to get married, like his dad. (If he follows his dad I'll never get grandbabies, though...did I mention "late bloomers"??) But then that's also kinda why we got a puppy...and they toilet train so much faster!!
     
  11. indimom

    indimom Are We There Yet?

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    Oooh, a Universal PTR! I'm in! I'm in!! :wave2:

    We're also planning a "fiscally responsible" trip to Orlando this summer.
    We're using Disney rewards to stay at Ft. Wilderness (in our tent) and to visit Epcot, DHS, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
    Then we're using BlueSky Rewards to cover two nights at Universal. (We did have to buy the 3-day tickets for the four of us, but it's worth it. lol.)

    We haven't been to Universal since 2008 when the WWoHP was under construction and I can't wait to stroll through my favorite book series of all time! (We need a Hogwarts smiley, maybe one with a gryffindor tie...)

    Our kids are 15 and 13, and we're keeping this trip under wraps for the time being. They just think we're going camping...

    Looking forward to more of your planning!
     
  12. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    Hey, nice to meet you! I just started reading your TR, and I love the way you got those nights at RPR. You da mom! :cool1: I have been saving Air Miles (it's like a "non-denominational" travel reward thing here in Canada)...10,000 miles takes a looong time to gather when you get "Get 4 miles when you buy 4 bags of Green Giant veggies!!" Ds also has a cc that gets us 1 pt for every $15, which is good, but it's still takes a heckuva lot of determination to get to 10,500!

    You are gonna LOVE WWoHP. It's just amazing. Amazing.
     
  13. pas130

    pas130 Always missing Florida....

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    :lmao: One of the neighbor girls has a crush on my DS12, and he blushes when he sees her...here we go :eek: Buthe told me when he is 25 he will marry and have 3 kids, 2 boys and a girl..there you have it :rotfl: He is still my cuddlebunny and I take it every chance I get :cloud9:
     
  14. Nancy for Disney

    Nancy for Disney DIS Veteran

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    I love this picture. My DD19 was Moaning Myrtle for Halloween one year too. She did about five years in a row of being various characters. Here favorite is Luna Lovegood. By the way....You look just like Molly Weasley. I dressed as Molly once for a midnight party at a book store when the 6th book came out.

    I love the pool. I keep going back to the pictures of our resort. Very exciting to look at it.
     
  15. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    We've had a couple of years of Harry characters too. Ds made a great Harry. You made my day. Molly is my hero, she's the uber-mom. From the first howler she sent Ron to that glorious moment when she screamed at Bellatrix "Not my daughter, b*tch!", I heart Molly. Always loved Luna too, thought she'd be Harry's wife for a while there.

    Nice to have a pool to look at and dream of, isn't it? Snowing here again, and March definitely came in like a lion last week.
     
  16. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    (I just posted this info in the Cdn forum, so if you're on there too you've probably already seen this.)

    Ooo, I've had a fun planning morning. I think it's fair to say many of us here are planners. I have a couple of versions of spreadsheets and tables to build plans, but I just stumbled on my new favourite online. There's a community/site called "The Dibb", which is primarily for UK lovers of Florida. They have their own crowd calendar, and other info resources and forums.

    But the real gem is the vacation planner. It generates a trip plan easily, and has lots of menu drop-downs to fill in different vacation activities, as well as a notes field for things that don't fit in the other categories. You can even just move stuff from one day to another without having to delete and start over if, say, you don't get the res'n you want on the day you planned. I only have two complaints: took me a while to figure out the "Add Now" button was to save the current entry (e.g., if you'd entered an ADR or something). Also the pdf it generates for printing has a smaller font than I'd choose, but it's still pretty readable. It prints with a banner ad at the bottom, but that's a small price to pay.

    I also love that it will pull park hours into your plan if you select a certain theme park for the day, and it uses the park logo in the margin so you can see at a glance what's planned. Now the Universal hours aren't yet up for our trip, grr, but when I selected Seaworld, I didn't have to cross reference to find the hours, it just pulled the opening and closing hours into the plan for me. It would be really cool if it cross-ref'd the parks with the prediction from their own crowd calendar, but I guess you can't have everything!

    You can also make it public, but I haven't tested that out--not sure if public means anybody, or just other community members.

    You do have to sign up to access it, but it's free and doesn't seem obnoxious. Start here http://www.thedibb.co.uk/index.php and look for the vacation planner tab across the top once you've registered. I remember years ago I paid for Tour Guide Mike, and tried that planner, but this free one is way better.

    So now I'm almost ready to make an ADR or two! :hyper:
     
  17. braddillman

    braddillman Mouseketeer

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    Subscribing.

    I used to live in Windsor Junction, NS, and totally agree with you on everything, I'm also thrifty. In the past we've usually used aeroplan and flown from YHZ, but considered driving to NH as you said.

    Now moved to Ottawa and planning to drive down for xmas 2013. We've done the 14 hr. drive between Ottawa and Halifax many times, so a 21 hr. drive Ottawa-Orlando is only 50% more. And gasbuddy.com says under $500 in gas round trip. We wouldn't drive for a 1-week trip, but we're planning to stay for 2 weeks NOT including drive time (we'll leave early, stay for 2 weeks, then leave, so say 2.5 weeks incl. driving).

    Love the flexpasses. You don't feel as much pressure to make every minute count, I don't feel guilty about hanging out at the resort pool instead of being in a park. We got a timeshare on i-drive back in 1999 and have used it every 2-3 years since. Our plan is to go for 2 weeks every other year instead of a week/year (thrifty). Love the Fountains. Love a timeshare or house, dislike being jammed into a hotel room watching TV on the bed or hanging out in the lobby. I'd rather stretch out on the couch.

    We went for 15 days in Feb 2011. In addition to 4 flexpasses for our family of 5, I got myself annual passes to uni and seaworld - they paid for themselves in free parking - back the, valet parking at that. Not sure this time around, the annual pass price went up again I think, need to re-do the calcs. Valet at uni was nice, saved some walking and got into/out of the park much quicker. It was certainly nice for no additional cost.

    WWoHP is cool. My fav is Jurassic park. Short answer, uni beats disney unless you have kids < 9 or so.

    Keep reporting, I can't wait.
     
  18. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    welcome! I think I recognize you from the Cdn board?

    Watching tv on the bed--yep. Our last onsite vacation was at Coronado, and while I liked the resort--it was two weeks of watching tv on the bed when we got home from the parks, and sitting on the floor in the bathroom so I could use my computer after the kids were asleep! I agree, longer and less frequent works for us. Getting there is a significant investment of time and/or money, so I like the longer stay to amortize that! We have toyed with driving too. Dh and I would totally be up for it...one of our last pre-kid trips was from Tampa to Lafayette Louisiana round-trip. :drive: But it does add time, and the kids might revolt. I really want to drive NL-BC with them someday, so I should save up that road trip mojo.

    Funny you mention the APs. We have been playing with the math, trying to figure out if it's worth it to save on parking! Very unlikely we'd be back inside the year--we did that once with Disney but, you know, the kids are getting closer to college!

    You should post a report--are you making plans for the drive yet? I'd be interested in the details to be sure.
     
  19. braddillman

    braddillman Mouseketeer

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    Yes, that's me from the Canada board.

    A flexpass is $294. Universal Orlando annual passes are either $260 or $400 (premier). Seaworld+Aquatica annual pass is $179. Parking is $15/day I think.

    So annual passes for 1 person (only need 1 for the parking) would be $260+$179=$439 or $145 more. So based on 10 days of parking = $150 that's a break even. The annual pass will get you discounts on merchandise and dining (probably 5% to 10% again you only need 1 person with the pass), but that might not add up to much if you're thrifty. Say save another $25 or $250 spent.

    So I guess the regular annual passes are a small savings, but they don't come with valet anymore. Another $140 would get you free valet - but you're still expected to tip $1 or $2 each pick up. So you should decide, is $160 worth it for a treat for valet? Or would $160 be better spent on another treat (Mythos?). Mythos is pretty good and should be < $160.

    I'd say consider the annual passes (but not the uni premier); do your own numbers, don't take my word.

    I've been often enough I don't think I'll write a PTR. We're looking at 3 options:

    a) 11 days at The Fountains and EITHER uni or dis,
    b) a) plus add 3 days at the other park - this probably means mostly dis and adding 3 days of uni because 3 days is MUCH cheaper at uni than 3 days at dis, plus if we stay those 3 days at uni resort we'd get front-of-the-line, but not with the 3 days added at dis, or
    c) a) plus a short cruise, e.g. Carnival (joke away!). We could hit a beach in Mexico maybe.

    If you know someone with RCI membership you could price a timeshare condo vs. renting a house. Those are the 2 best options for thrifty people, IMHO. We prefer the timeshare because a resort makes us feel more like we're on vacation than a house, but we still have way more room than a hotel room (1,200 sq. ft., full size kitchen, our own private laundry machines, 2 bedrooms sleeps 6, 8 in a pinch). Not as good as a whole house, but everything we need to feel comfy on vacation.

    I haven't driven down i95 but once, back in the early 90's when I was fresh out of university. Never with kids. Not sure how it'll work, but the kids want to go and have solemnly sworn to be good (not like the Weasleys). Not sure they can deliver, though.
     
  20. coastgirl

    coastgirl DIS Veteran

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    My dh was doing the same math this evening! :rotfl: I think we are leaning toward the passes, because (a) he loves to find a way to get a deal and (b) personally it's less painful in one chunk than "nickel and diming" us for the parking every day. We already have CAA, which gets us the same discount at USO that the pass will--not sure about SW. We may find other deals...or it may make him easier to convince to do that turnaround in under 12 mos! (Wives are devious. At least I am!::yes::)

    Yes, they do make it hard to do both, don't they? And I agree with your logic, easier to tag Universal on. I think our Disney trips have been amazing, but so darn busy...I am happy to have one or the other. And I doubt we'll ever go again without WWoHP, so that's bad news for Disney.

    We did a Disney cruise a few years ago, and the best day I think was the beach day. Good luck with the cruise, I hope you find something you like.

    We have done a condo a couple of times, and it's a revelation after a hotel room. This is our second villa vacation in Orlando, and we've also rented houses in Tennessee, PEI--oh yeah, and Ireland! The space + the private pools you can find in the Orlando market is the height of decadence for us. We are renting from an accountant in Oakville :teeth: for about $120/nt.:cool1:

    Ha! Get it in writing. It might get you some leverage for something else. "Remember the meltdown in Virginia? Daddy doesn't want to go to McDonald's tonight, I choose Thai. You owe me." Yeah, that'll work.;)
     
  21. braddillman

    braddillman Mouseketeer

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    Wanted to add I'm a Potter fan as well. Dressed as Mad-eye for Halloween, kids didn't want to stand anywhere near me they were so embarrassed. My DS and I had some nice quiet time in the Hogs' Head, he on a butterbeer and me on an ale, while the girls were on dragons (DS was a little afraid).

    But I'm not sure we need to return so soon. Kids are more attracted to Despicable Me, and I'm waiting for Transformers. Maybe dis this time, and wait for 2nd half of WWoHP to complete for a future trip.

    I just made a little chart to verify my suspicions. Most rides in USF/IoA have some equivalent in dis somewhere. Sometime the Uni ride is better, sometimes dis. But there were only a few without peer: HPFJ, Transformers vs Lights Motors Action, Illuminations, Fantasmic and the AK safari. Not sure how to interpret that yet. Does it mean we'd have a fine time either way? Or does it mean we should pick the one with the most 'winners' in a smackdown?

    Hope you enjoy legoland. I wonder how my own DS would like it? He'd probably prefer disneyQuest I expect.

    It'll be hot at the end of August. Make sure you get into Popeye's barges! Our family fav bar none. When you go in Sept/Oct it's still plenty warm, but not so busy. We've gone around 5-7 times without getting off some visits. Loads of fun to hear the occasional person ask "Am I going to get wet?" after the boat has left the dock. I guess people are oblivious to the people exiting the ride.
     

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