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We're off to see the wizards! We leave tomorrow!!

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by -Hope-, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    Actually, Kya and I decided this on the way home yesterday so I didn't know while I was sitting next to you! :rotfl:
    I'm so excited too- I had actually thought I would never see Christmas at WDW and had made peace with it so this is extra special! :goodvibes

    If Jace changes his mind after plane tickets are purchased it will be too late- but not too late to plan a mother/son trip at another time. :rolleyes1

    And you guys convinced me- I'll start a new PTR soon! :thumbsup2
     
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  3. BabyEeyore

    BabyEeyore DIS Veteran

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    Yay! Definitely let us all know when you start a new one. That is so cool that you two are going during Christmas. It is just extra magical during that time. :goodvibes
     
  4. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    I will! Next week is super slow because both work and our regular homeschool activities are taking a break for the holiday. I'm sure I'll be itching for something to do. :)

    Sent from my iPhone using DISBoards
     
  5. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    We had another movie day today! :thumbsup2 We had loads of fun in Bikini Bottom and I'll get to all the details in a minute... but first a couple of disclaimers. ;)

    1) I know the photo quality is HORRIBLE in the pics I'm about to post. I am not okay with it but when I weighed my choices of sharing not so great pics or not sharing at all I decided to go ahead and share. I'm trying to decide if the camera on my phone is going to be enough to keep me happy on our trip and I have to say, so far it's not looking so good. I have tried lots of apps and learned lots of tricks to improve the quality of the pics but it's just not working for me. :confused3 I have no control over the white balance so a lot of these pics have yellow glare from the tablecloth. There was an issue with glare when the lighting was too harsh so I played around with different light sources but those turned out to have a LOT of noise. The outdoor pics are fine (which is what a lot of the pics will be anyway) as far as exposure, noise, etc. are concerned but I can't frame the shots well because I can't see my screen in bright light. :headache: Oh, and the zoom is a pain because it also adds a lot of noise to the pics. I may have to think about just dealing with lockers and bringing my DSLR. I won't have fun and will be frustrated if I can't get any good pics on this trip. :rolleyes1

    2) I previously said we were using these days to get to know obscure or older characters but then turn around and have a Spongebob day! :duck: I had every intention of doing something else and then we ended up not needing to go to town Tuesday. The video store that will have old/obscure movies is nearly 30 miles away so I wasn't going to run in just to get a cheesy old movie. I searched and searched Netflix for something acceptable but finally decided we'd just do something we have and save the other stuff for later. :thumbsup2

    So, without further ado...

    Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?


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    I know there's no Spongebob attraction at UO but he's there so we are celebrating him! ::yes::

    We had food including Krabby patties and Mrs. Puffs Cheesy puffs...
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    We also had a fresh pineapple, peanuts for Sandy, Patrick Star's toast (toast cut with a star shaped cookie cutter) topped with jellyfish jelly, Pearl's whale crackers (Whales, similar to Goldfish found at Dollar General) and pink and yellow lemonade...
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    That's Jace's "Glove World" Lego set in the above pic. He also has a "Flying Dutchman" set so that went well with some gold wrapped chocolates mixed with his treasure...
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    We watched the Spongebob movie (hilarious), reread a few comics, went jellyfishing and were bubble blowing babies...
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    Finally, because Spongebob is so silly, we had silly straws and silly string...
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    (Yes, Kya IS wearing pants but she put on one of her dad's shirts to protect her clothes- and her tall boots- and the outfit was quite interesting.) :rotfl:

    [​IMG]

    We had a really fun afternoon and as Jace was fixing his plate full of Krabby patties and whales he told me that I was awesome so I'm taking that as a success. :thumbsup2
     
  6. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    So, while the kids were watching Spongebob (okay, I was half-watching too- that movie is really funny!) I was running some numbers concerning both of our upcoming trips. (Yes, I'm still going to start a new PTR, I just haven't gotten around to it yet.) I've made a few decisions regarding both...

    First of all, the Disney trip is probably going to happen in January or February of 2014 instead of November of 2013. It will save us so much money and Kya says she understands. I know she's a little disappointed because she'd rather see the Christmas decorations but she can't be TOO disappointed about a trip to WDW. She seems okay with it overall. So, since we are still much more than a year out I'll probably wait a bit to start that PTR... :rolleyes1

    As for the Universal trip... I've cut it down a bit. We're going to go from a Tuesday to a Saturday now instead of Saturday to Friday. This will help us accommodate the direct Orlando flights at our regional airport and will save us quite a bit of money. The flights will be cheaper, this airport doesn't charge for parking, we'll spend less on the hotel and car rental and will need less for food. We'll also have less time in the parks but I'm being zen and okay with that. :hippie:

    So, the new plan...

    I think we're going to stay at the Days Inn (ETA: Its actually a La Quinta, oops!) partner hotel that is really close to the property. It has free parking and they claim to be walking distance to City Walk. :thumbsup2 Even if the walk proves to be difficult to navigate we'll have access to the iTrolley so we won't have to pay for parking. PLUS there's a free hot breakfast so we'll save a bit on food as well. I had originally dismissed this hotel because the pool wasn't all that impressive but I've decided that the rest outweighs the less than perfect pool.

    We'll arrive on a Tuesday evening (and I'll have to change my ticker!! :eek: ). That afternoon we'll settle into the hotel, maybe go for a swim and then in the evening we'll walk over to City Walk for dinner.

    The next day, Wednesday will be spent in a park- I haven't decided yet if I want to start or end with Harry. :confused3 We're only going to have two days now at UO and we may or may not spring for park to park tickets, depending on whether or not my mom helps pay for the room and rental car.

    Oh, did I mention my mom may not be going?! :faint: She has been really unhappy with her current job for a while and may be looking for a new job after the new year. If she does she may not be eligible for a vacation next September so we may be on our own! I know I've complained about her in the past but I'm actually a little disappointed for her and the kids. She would have driven me crazy but she's my MOM, you know? And I know the kids would have loved to have her along. Anyway, we are definitely not going to the beach because we'll need to shore up plans before then (plane tickets will go on sale and the prices usually only go up after they're released) so we needed something more definitive than she can promise right now. We'll still plan as if she and my brother's girlfriend are coming along but since she's graduating from college in December she may be in the same boat as far as vacation time is concerned.

    Ack- sorry for the long ramble but I thought you needed the context. ;) So, two park days, possibly only one park per day. We'll spend Wednesday and Thursday at UO so we'll just have to see where we end up first. I think Thursday may end up being an early closing at US due to HHN so that may make the choice for us. We'll go to US when we can stay the latest and do IOA on the other day since HHN doesn't affect it. I don't know, we'll see when the calendars come out I guess. :surfweb:

    Friday will be spent at Legoland in Winter Haven. The hours are only 10-5 so we'll check out before driving down. We'll probably spend some time that evening at DTD and then head on to a hotel near the airport. Our flight will leave EARLY Saturday morning (there's only one at the small airport we're using) so it makes sense to stay nearby and we can stay somewhere super cheap, return the rental car, etc.

    So, that's it. A quick trip. I'll talk more about our plans in the parks, where we want to eat and our list of must dos in future posts. :thumbsup2
     
  7. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead

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    there are a few Days Inn in the UO area.

    the one you are staying at, is it on Major Blvd?
     
  8. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    I think I misspoke (mistyped??). I went back to the site to look at the address and I think it was a La Quinta that I settled on. We've stayed in them before in other cities so I'm not sure why I got it mixed up. :confused3

    Sent from my iPhone using DISBoards
     
  9. Twoboysnmygirl

    Twoboysnmygirl DIS Veteran

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    Shew! A lot for me to catch up on! I'm unsure what I would do about the camera situation. I can see what you mean, (noise) on the wider shots, although I think your closeup shots look FAB for a phone camera! I think you should probably BRING the DSLR with you, take the phone the first day and see if you really use it in the dark very often, I'm guessing most of your shots will be outside. Then if you decide it won't work that first day, take the DSLR on the actual important day when you go to HP and get those shots with your camera! :thumbsup2

    I think the plan sounds great!
     
  10. BabyEeyore

    BabyEeyore DIS Veteran

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    If you go to WDW early January 2014, they may still have some Christmas decorations. I'm not 100% sure or anything, but I have pictures from a trip on January 6th, 2011 with the Christmas tree and other lights/garland up at the Magic Kingdom (though there are none of the castle all lit up, so those may have already been taken down). I think they come down throughout the first week of January.
     
  11. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    I had read this about the first week. That may work out but we'll have to see.

    Sent from my iPhone using DISBoards
     
  12. Alysa

    Alysa DIS Veteran

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    So excited for you and your girls trip! So fun! :goodvibes
     
  13. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    [​IMG]

    Hermione did not respond well when Ron disappeared for weeks and returned with a simple, "Hey." I've been gone for months so I hope you aren't exponentially angry! :duck:

    Granted I didn't leave you in the middle of a top-secret, life or death mission. But I also didn't save your best friend from a horcrux, retrieve the Sword of Gryffindor and then use the sword to destroy the horcrux. But I do have PLANS to share and that's almost just as good, right? :rolleyes1

    So, I really do apologize for dropping off the boards for so long. I took on more hours at work in December and things just got crazy. I was teaching GED part time and really loved it so it didn't seem like a big deal to take on one more day. And really, it wasn't overall a huge deal but it did leave a little less time for things like being on the DIS. But that's all changed now... our program lost it's state funding and Thursday was my last day at work. Financially we're fine but this was a really rewarding job and I'm a little unsure what to do with all this free time... enter the DIS boards! :thumbsup2:

    Honestly, at first I wasn't sure the trip was still going to happen with the loss of income. We don't need my job to pay our regular bills but it does help out with annual things like taxes and homeowner's insurance and is what we use for extras like movies, dinners out and VACATIONS. :eek:

    Fortunately I'm a planner so I had already saved up for the annual bills. I also decided pretty quickly that I would get myself added to the substitute teacher list at our local school and use that money to save our trip! :cheer2: Honestly, I'm not thrilled at the prospect and I have some feelers out for a few other positions that would be more rewarding but subbing isn't so bad, especially if I think about how many butterbeers I can buy with just one day of sub pay. :drinking1

    So, no job but still going to see Harry and the gang... I'd been watching flight info for a while and finally saw the prices I was looking for. Tickets for the same amount of money we'd have spent to drive. :yay: Nonrefundable flights means this is really happening folks... time to jump back on the DIS boards and see what I've missed in the last few months. :upsidedow

    OMG!! Universal has a dining plan and FREE DINING for OFFSITE partner hotels during our dates!!! :faint:

    Well, this just changes EVERYTHING! I already had a room paid for at Quality Inn that I booked through Expedia (thankfully I had the foresight to choose a refundable room). And I knew we were going to, at the very least, get AAA discounts for our tickets. So, I wasn't really sure if this free dining was going to be all that free... and I was at work with only my phone for internet when I discovered it so I couldn't really properly run numbers and do my DISboards math. (Uh yeah, classes slowed down to a drizzle when people found out we were shutting down otherwise I'd never have had time to DIS at my evening class. sigh)

    I was texting Karen (twoboysnmygirl) from work just DYING to tell someone this news who would truly get why I was so excited but also understand the absolute ANGUISH of not being able to obsessively run those numbers. :scared:

    So, anyway, I finally made it home, ran the numbers and... it seemed like I was going to save about $100. Hmmm... is that really worth it when we'll be giving up our kitchenette and third bed (the room through Expedia had a pull out couch). I took some more time and tried to figure out exactly what we'd spend buying food OOP and finally figured out we'd actually be saving around $200; definitely worth it! (that's 2 1/2 days of subbing so very, very worth it in my book). :teacher:

    So, yesterday I booked our stay from Saturday September 21 to Wednesday September 25 at the Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando. It's a little more cramped but it got good reviews on Trip Advisor (not a single user pic showing things dirty or broken) and we still get a microwave and fridge so I'm happy.

    I could go on and tell you about the transportation debate I'm having with myself or the ADRs but I have to save something for tomorrow... and see if I actually have any readers left! :goodvibes
     
  14. Twoboysnmygirl

    Twoboysnmygirl DIS Veteran

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    Well, you know I will always read...but you better get over to mine and catch up! :rolleyes2

    I'm so excited you got dining! I know you aren't loving all this extra time, but I think I might like it if it means you are back on the DIS more and also blogging more! ;)
     
  15. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    I'll adjust and finding ways to keep myself busy will definitely help! (I read all 48 pages of the Universal food sticky tonight) :lmao:

    I do plan to catch up with you too but my stupid phone doesn't show siggys so I can't see the link! I'll find it tomorrow though, I promise!!
     
  16. Nancy for Disney

    Nancy for Disney DIS Veteran

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    Love the HP "Ron/ Hermione analogy" and even more glad for you that trip is going to work out with freebies too! :yay:
     
  17. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    Haha, glad you liked that. ;) And thanks! I'm pretty relieved because having to tell my kids we weren't going was NOT something I wanted to do. :sad2:
     
  18. Alysa

    Alysa DIS Veteran

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    That's so sucky about losing your funding. I'm so sorry. Things seem to be difficult for so many people like that lately.
    But great that you got free dining and that the trip is still on! So happy to have you back! :goodvibes
     
  19. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    It is pretty sucky, especially for the students.

    I'm pretty excited about free dining and pouring over menus has been a great distraction from the job stuff. :thumbsup2
     
  20. -Hope-

    -Hope- Always dreaming of adventure...

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    Today was my first "official" day of being unemployed (by which I mean if our program was still up and running, I'd have worked today). So, I tried to keep myself busy and of COURSE that meant trip planning! :surfweb:

    I actually have lots of updates to give you guys about food, itinerary, etc. but for today I'm focusing on transportation in Florida because it's one of the few things that's still up in the air for us... :confused3

    We're flying into Orlando and since this is the darkside we have to figure out how we're getting around once we arrive. That's not a criticism, just a statement of fact. I'm fully aware that ME and buses aren't free- they're inclusive and that's different (largely because you're paying for them even if you choose not to use them). Again, not a criticism, just an observation of the differences between the parks. :duck:

    Anyway, I have a thread around here somewhere (I think it got moved to Orlando area hotels boards) about the I-Ride trolleys. The ever helpful, darkside experts were most patient. However, I'm still undecided if that's really the way to go. So, let me run down the options for you...

    I should note, first of all, that airport to hotel will be either cabs or rental car, if we decide to get one. Cabs are cheaper than shuttles. And I'm not doing a 2 hour city bus ride at 9:00 PM after traveling all day. Not gonna happen. :faint:

    I also haven't included info for how we'll get to Legoland because that isn't a factor in the decision. We have shuttle tickets, how we get to that shuttle will depend on how we get everywhere else. :thumbsup2

    Option 1: Exclusively using cabs ($225 including tips)
    So, this is pretty straight forward. I got the estimates using the farefinders macraven shared with me on the trolley thread. :goodvibes The price includes transportation from and to the airport as well as to and from the parks each day.

    Advantages:
    • easy peasy, no driving in busy traffic for me
    • dropped off close park entrance
    • no waiting at the end of a long day when we're all tired

    Disadvantage:
    • no way to get around for things like a quick trip to the store without spending more $$
    • if we decided to leave the park mid-day and return later this would also mean more $$
    • these unexpected expenses could add up quickly!
    • taking a cab to the airport means not leaving directly from the parks but leaving our bags at the front desk and then leaving the parks early enough to get our bags before heading to the airport (and again, this diversion is going to add to the above estimate)

    Option 2: Cab/trolley mix ($146 including tips)
    This entails cabs from and to the airport, using the I-Ride trolleys for everything else.

    Advantages:
    • fairly simple, still no driving through traffic for me
    • CHEAP! This is really the most (only?) appealing thing about this option
    • The passes for the trolley would give us unlimited use during the time we're there so no unexpected expenses for extra trips

    Disadvantages:
    • The trolley does not drop us at the gate. In fact it's about a 10 minute walk to the parking structure from the nearest stop.
    • I'm concerned that at the end of a long day we'll be tempted to just hop in a cab instead of walking to the stop. If we do this too often we haven't saved much.
    • We are not morning people. We might end up taking a cab in the AM as well simply because we're already running late for the parks.
    • The nearest stop to our hotel is a bit of a walk as well (5-10 minutes). My kids are going to be whining and my mom is going to be tired before we even get to the parks!
    • I've read some reports of long waits for trolleys in the off season (despite the schedules posted)
    • Just as in option 1, taking a cab to the airport means not leaving directly from the parks but leaving our bags at the front desk and then leaving the parks early enough to get our bags before heading to the airport (and again, this diversion is going to add to the above estimate)

    Btw, I've done the math and taking cabs several times if we end up hating the trolley will cost the same $225 as exclusively using cabs. This includes getting to the LL shuttle and would also cover any extra trips we may end up taking (for groceries, mid-day breaks, etc.)

    Option 3: Cabs/city buses ($175 including tips)
    Similar to above with taking cabs from and to the airport but then instead of buying trolley passes we'd buy the more expensive but still relatively cheap bus passes.

    Advantages:
    • Again, fairly simple, still no driving through traffic for me
    • My understanding is that the stop is within UO, not across the street or anything so no extra walking.
    • Still pretty cheap compared to some other options.
    • Again, the bus passes would give us unlimited use during the time we're there so no unexpected expenses for extra trips

    Disadvantages:
    • We'd still have to be ready and out the door early, just as with the trolleys
    • There are bus transfers involved which adds to the amount of time spent traveling- about 40 minutes total (which is pretty similar to WDW bus transportation IME).
    • Again, we can't leave directly from the parks. This subtracts from park time on our last day and adds to the expense of the final cab ride.

    Option 4: Rental car ($225 including gas and parking fees)
    Again, this is pretty straight forward. Getting a rental car upon arrival and returning it when we leave.

    Advantages:
    • No worries about extra trips, etc. We have the car when we need it.
    • We can leave straight from the parks on our last day. Just put our bags in the trunk and we're ready to eek out as much park fun as possible until we absolutely HAVE to leave.
    • No waiting for trolleys, cab drivers, etc. Just go when we want to.

    Disadvantages:
    • Traffic- we live in a small town and while I CAN drive in heavy traffic I don't like it. And my mom is a bit dramatic and makes things worse.
    • Too many horror stories of cars not being ready. Our flight will arrive at 9:00 PM IF neither of our flights (we have a connection) are delayed. I know it's a slim chance but I don't want to be waiting for our car/fighting with the rental place when I'm tired and just want to sleep.

    So, that's it. After typing that all out with the advantages/disadvantages I think I'm leaning toward the rental car but would still like some feedback. Are there advantages/disadvantages to these scenarios I'm overlooking? Do any of the advantages make everything else in that scenario completely worth it in your opinion? Any of the disadvantages make everything else in that scenario completely NOT worth it? :confused3

    Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated! :goodvibes
     
  21. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead

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    don't laugh but there is another scenario to add to your list of transportation needs.


    you could bring your luggage with you to the park on the last day before your flight leaves.


    you can take the luggage to guest services or lost and found and ask that they hold them for you.

    you fill out a form and list what is being held there.
    you will have to show an id to do this.

    when you are ready to leave, pick up your luggage then.


    a cab from the parks could cost you $35 + gratuity.
    or if you get a town car from the hotel, it would be $50.

    i know it sounds crazy to take your luggage with you on the last park day at the darkside, but it would save you steps in backtracking back to your hotel.


    yes, others have down this before.
     

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