That one time we went to Universal… a first time family vacation pre trip report / trip report Completed

Bethany10

Mouseketeer
Joined
Oct 17, 2016
Prologue
So I started writing this report in September of last year, hoping to come back to it as needed before our planned trip June 10-15th. At the time I was also slightly disbelieving that we would even be able to make it a go, as we’ve been saving for this trip for over 3 years. From time to time I would come back and update, trying to keep things light and funny. You’re going to notice a change in tone starting in May of this year. My moms health became unstable in January and while she was able to rehab and go back home, in May she declined again, and she passed in mid May. Since then I’ve been scrambling beginning the process of settling her estate and listening to people tell me how much I “deserve” to take this trip. I don’t feel like I deserve it, I feel like crawling back into bed and hibernating which is saying something because I love summer. I love everything about it the pool, the heat, the lack of school and routine. Not this year, this year everything has a bit of gray to it. My hope is to come back and report that we had a great time, that I was able to relax and enjoy that pool cup. That I’ll return refreshed and ready to take on the days ahead but I honestly don’t know. Our lives can change with every breath we take, don’t take a moment for granted.

And on that note, lets go in the way back machine to September of 2018 when I thought this was going to be a fun, light trip report about a family headed out on our first family vacation (meaning we aren’t visiting family, headed for a wedding or other event, just going to go because we want to)

9/19/18

We are: Myself (bethany10) DH (T) enjoys roller coasters, His words are I’ll go horizontal, but not vertical (no Dr. Doom’s fearfall for him!) Harry Potter and works hard to help support our family. DD (13 at the time of the trip)is a MAJOR thrill seeker, Harry Potter fan and all around great kid. and DS (10) is a willing thrill seeker, but announced early on, no water rides for him. As for me, I’m a non roller coaster Disney fan who also loves Harry potter. I work full time as a Graphic Designer, so the design geek in me will be making all kinds of secret purchases purely for the labels in the HP areas. Basically I’m just here for the food.


Some background, if you’re interested.

After many, many years of unemployment, daycare bills that would have bought us a new car every year, setbacks and challenges in 2016 we achieved the goal/dream of purchasing our first house. I cried when we signed the papers and am grateful every day I come home to a house we “own”. Well, ok our AC went out for most of last summer so I was less grateful then BUT, still a big deal to me that we/the bank own it.

So we’re sitting at the house signing and I look at T and go, next goal is a trip. T nods at me and says sure. His thoughts: Omaha for 3 days. Mine: Disney for 7 days. With all due respect to the people of Omaha, clearly we needed to get on the same page. I go off on my own tangent and start planning a massive Disney trip with a side trip to Universal for a day (yes, I know I’m on the Universal boards walk with me). I start chattering to DH about how much we’re going to spend on food while at Disney. He blinks at me, Disney? Wait, HOW MUCH? The discussion devolved from there.

I talked to friends who had gone to both parks who had kids our age, unanimously I was told we spent all this money on Disney and our kids begged to go back to Universal. I began to have second thoughts. I asked A about meeting characters. I got the patented tween eyeroll stare every parent of a teen/tween can mimic as they’ve seen it approximately 3,287 times. I asked DS, I got why are we going to see mickey? I thought we were seeing Harry Potter. So, I swapped out plans (again), at one point we were going to go to Universal for 3 days then get on a Disney cruise for 3 days for some beach time. DH looked at the budget again and said, I’m sorry did you win the lottery and not tell me? I let go of the cruise. Then we looked at the end of May, 2018. That winter we had the most snow days we’ve had since DD started Kindergarten. School was extended past Memorial Day to make up the time. More changes.

Finally dear readers we get to plan Foxtrot. Which is totally set in Jello on a hot summer day.

The plan: Two nights at Royal Pacific, then move to a family suite at CBBR. We’ll rent a car and plan on a day trip to Kennedy Space Center. With the car I can hit Publix for some sundries to keep in the room.

Ebay purchases: 3 freestyle mugs and a popcorn bucket for a nice little savings. I’m saving the 4th mug for the prettier (IMO) Volcano bay mugs. I told the seller to pitch the straws, so I’ve been trying different reusable straws to find one that fits. It’s harder than you might think.

First change: As of September, RPR has priced us out, so the new plan has us spending the week at CBBR in a family suite. DH is happy as he felt moving hotels was “stupid”. If I can get a good AP rate at RPR we’ll go back, but I’m going to book CBBR for the week once we pay for plane tickets. Southwest releases our flights at the end of October. The plan is to hit Sams club for GCds at some point before that and save a little cash that way.

March, 2019 update. Remember how I said our 2017/18 winter was bad? Well the 2018/19 winter said hold my beer it’s going to be a bumpy ride. We had snow, then ice, then more snow. Did I mention the snow? Being in the Midwest, we’re used to the cold and to some extent the snow but this was bad even for us. The kids didn’t get a full week of school from the start of January (coming back from Christmas break) until the beginning of MARCH. We had that many snow days. Their last day is now set for a full week past Memorial Day.

In late January, my mom had to be checked into the hospital, where she spent 2 weeks, then on to rehab to get her strength back as she’s a senior and lives by herself. The day after she was admitted to the hospital, I had knee surgery which was a rabbit hole I went down after telling my GP we’re going on a very expensive trip this summer where I’m going to be doing a lot of walking. I’m nervous about this knee pain I’ve been having. That pain ended up being a torn meniscus, and my week post surgery where I was supposed to be resting and staying off of it, I spent running around the hospital dealing with mom. In short, the first half of the year sucked, and I started jokingly telling people I was padding my pool cup beverage fund. What they didn’t know is that’s exactly what I had started doing. Along with googling photos of warm beaches, and the lazy river at Cabana Bay.

Somewhere in there flight tickets were booked, and yet another change we were now coming home late Saturday, and saving about $200 over coming home early Sunday, not to mention the hotel savings. (Yay pool cup fund)

Mid March, AP rates were released for our dates. Now I had booked us into a Family Suite at Cabana Bay, so everyone would have their own bed. Being the cheap (or Frugal as my friends call me) person that I am, I booked us into the parking lot view room. We do tend to spend time in the room, so noise level is important to us, plus I don’t like the idea of an outside door. So, we were booked into a Family Suite interior entry in the towers. When AP rates were released, the only thing I paid attention to was interior vs exterior entry. We looked to save a decent amount by switching to the AP rate so I called (yay for $$ in the pool cup fund).

The guy on the phone is running through the reservation, family suite, interior entry yadda yadda pool view yadda.

Me: wait what, pool view?

Him: yes mam the rate you requested is the pool view room. (Still cheaper than the parking lot view with the AP rate. )

Me: Oh, yes ok we’ll take it.

Later to DH: Um I upgraded us to a pool view.

DH: cool!

Me: If parking lot view opens up we can save more (yay pool cup)

DH: But, pool view (boo, no pool cup)

Me: sigh, ok. Apparently everyone else is ecstatic with the idea that we’ll have a view of the pool. Here I was thinking no one cared.

That settled, we made the appointment to board our 100 lb dog at the canine resort, and settled in to wait until June. Slight tangent here, when I was a kid you boarded your dog at the vet. There was no resort, no grooming (baths were outside, with the hose with the stinky shampoo) no pay extra for a treat one day while you’re gone. You left the dog at the vet, came back and picked them up when you got home. Now, we have to spend the month of May taking him to the daycare portion of the resort because he gets anxious and we don’t want him to freak out when we board him. Sorry, get off my lawn rant over.

The flights, hotel and tickets (Undercover Tourist) have been booked. The weather has finally broken and there are plants blooming in my garden. Spring has finally arrived!

Mid April- nothing much to update. I’ve got counters going on my phone, and have started watching ride times on the Universal app. I’ve also drug out sewing projects that I put away in prep for the holidays thinking I would pick them back up in January (bwa ha ha says the universe on that one). I don’t sew very well, but do have a bag maker that I follow whose patterns are so well written she makes me think I can do more than my skills say I can. I’m in the middle of making our pool bag which I really want to be waterproof. This is proving to be a challenge and so far I’ve successfully managed to screw up a fair amount of the “good” fabric I’ve been hording for this project. If you’re a crafter you know the special pain that comes from actually using the good stuff you’ve been saving for the right project only to screw up said project. I’m switching gears and trying a different method of waterproofing. I’m hopeful it works.

Also this week, I contacted Cabana bay about pre-paying for the room. For anyone interested, I just emailed customer service and they very nicely emailed me a form to fill out and send back to them. The person I emailed was lovely, and very helpful she even added our high up room request to our reservation as it got lost somewhere along the way. I’m really happy to know that everything is pre-paid as much as possible so I can just relax and enjoy the parks. I know this isn’t how everyone rolls, but for me to know Its handled is a major part in being able to just flow with the day once we’re down there.

Just under 2 months to go. I’m ready for some pool time!

Less than one week to go update, I wrote my opening paragraph from here.

The weather is predicted to be surface of the sun hot, so basically June in Florida. Which I’m excited for. I’ve managed to pick my sewing projects back up and hope to get those done. The pool bag is coming together nicely, and I’ve been reading Schumi’s latest trip report adding yet more restaurants to my growing list.

Initial plan: We arrive around 4:00 on Monday. Everyone (else) has announced they want to chill in the hotel room. I’m going to see if I can coax them to citiwalk and have cowfish for dinner.

Tuesday: We hit the parks early, my family has been warned. I apologize now for anyone who may encounter us that early in the morning. I’ll be the one going look at that, how cool is that, do you know how much money we spent to be here? This is fun dammit.

Wednesday – volcano bay day if the weather holds. Which I’m hopeful it will as we will have limited time in this park due to our seasonal passes.

Thrusday – I finally let them sleep in. The day is open to return to VB, the parks or wherever people want to go. I may steal the car and go get a dole whip.

Friday – Boma day. She who makes the plans, gets time on Disney property. We have reservations for breakfast. The rest of the day is open. A trip to Kennedy space center has been discussed.

Saturday – we don’t leave until late in the evening, so it’s going to be what do we want to do, we’re open.

Will we actually follow this itinerary? Well I can guarantee parts of it will be followed (see the mention of the dole whip) and both kids are excited for the coasters so I suspect we will get to the park on Tuesday, the timing may not be what I want but that’s all part of the fun right?
Stay tuned and we’ll find out as the great 2019 vacation commences in just under 6 days.
 

schumigirl

It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
Joined
May 15, 2007
Bethany, I am so sorry for such huge loss in your life. Words will never help of course, but I hope you can soon have some kind of relief from the dreadful grief you are suffering.

Of course you feel like crawling under a duvet, but I pray you can lift yourself and have a truly wonderful trip. You most certainly do deserve it :hug:

But oh my, what a time you`ve had generally over the last months.....and the excitement of purchasing your own home which was definitely a high spot!!!

Hope your knee doesn't give you any issues.....take care of it and you`ll do great......

The trip itself sounds so much fun!!! You have some lovely plans....and plans can always be changed......lol......I hope you do get to KSC.....it truly was one of our best highlights in ALL our trips......but if you don't there`s always next time...….

6 days will fly past!!!!

I`ll miss you leaving as I`m away, but have a truly wonderful and amazing time at Universal....and your Disney time of course......I`m sure you will......I look forward to reading your trip report when you get back........take care Bethany......:flower3:
 

macraven

Proud Redhead
Moderator
Joined
Apr 21, 2003
Im still following along!

You are a great planner and know the vacation will be awesome
 
  • Bethany10

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    Thanks Schumi! I've enjoyed reading your latest report, your day in the pool cabana sounds amazing. Mom was excited for us to go, she'd seen pictures of the hotel and was concerned that her heath improve in time for me to feel like I could go without worrying about her. It all happened so fast, it's just stunning. Basically a week from when we checked her into the hospital to the nurse calling me to say she was gone. But, I rest knowing this was her decision to end care, and it was incredibly peaceful. Who can ask for more than that?

    Sewing at night, and getting all the little details of the packing done are keeping me occupied.
     

    Bethany10

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    You are a great planner and know the vacation will be awesome
    I'm only as good as the Dis allows me to be, I give all credit to you guys for having such an amazing wealth of information on here. We're actually thinking about a return trip next year wherein I get to actually set foot in a Disney park. Once we convert our tickets to AP's I've been after T that we need to go twice. With the opening of Galaxy's Edge I've finally got enough cheddar to convince him to at least let me plan a trip with a day to DHS and a day at AK as part of our itinerary. Of course, the cost of those tickets are almost equal to the cost of the day passes we got this year. One of my arguments was that we'd save money as we already had tickets to Uni.
     

    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    Thanks Schumi! I've enjoyed reading your latest report, your day in the pool cabana sounds amazing. Mom was excited for us to go, she'd seen pictures of the hotel and was concerned that her heath improve in time for me to feel like I could go without worrying about her. It all happened so fast, it's just stunning. Basically a week from when we checked her into the hospital to the nurse calling me to say she was gone. But, I rest knowing this was her decision to end care, and it was incredibly peaceful. Who can ask for more than that?

    Sewing at night, and getting all the little details of the packing done are keeping me occupied.
    Thank you...…:daisy:

    Keeping occupied is a great help.

    Yes, you can`t ask for more really.....a peaceful end is how we`d all like to go. My dad passed away peacefully in his own chair in his sitting room.....he had been ill for a while with one thing and another, and wouldn't have had his time dragged out either.....so yes, a blessing.

    And it absolutely sounds like she would just want you to have the best time!!!
     

    Pumpkin1172

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 14, 2016
    @Bethany10 I'm so sorry about the loss of your Mother. Your response if absolutely normal. It is unbelievable to wrap your head around it. When we lost my mil ( who was i just as close to as my mom if not more close ) passed away very unexpectedly, the first year honestly is just a blur. None of us remember much of how we got through that first year. Each person grieves differently and learns how to manage the waves of grief when they hit. I know my husband and I struggled this past year with this. Even though Mom passed away 5 yrs ago already, we had to two huge milestones this past May- our daughter ( her oldest grandchild ) got married, and our son graduated high school not even two weeks later. It was hard to plan these big events, knowing that she wasn't going to physically be there. I know she was there in spirit...as she wouldn't miss those moments...but your heart misses seeing them there to witness it.

    So I totally understand not wanting to deal with life. You just want the world to stop spinning for a little bit for you to catch up deal with your grief before you have to pull up your big girl panties and adult again. I get it...I really do. Just know, you have all your wonderful memories of her to help you through your grief.

    You plans sounds Wonderful!!!!!!! I love that you need a little disney in there as well :blush: I took our daughter to Disney/ Universal three years ago...now i'm trying to plan to take the hubby and 2 boys. I know they would love both parks. There are pros and cons for both...and you can't compare the two. They are both great in my opinion. Disney is way more work for the beast that it is...but I know that my boys will like to see it once...and that will probably be it. Universal is more our type of holiday. Way more laid back...with no concrete plans...where you don't have to schedule everything including those darn potty breaks lol.

    I hope your leg doesn't give you much trouble on the holiday. I can't wait to hear more!!!!
     
  • PoohIsHome

    Wizard momma living in a muggle world.
    Joined
    Sep 5, 2013
    @Bethany10 I'm so very sorry for the unexpected loss of your mother.

    Grief has no timeline and it certainly doesn't come with expectations. I hope this trip gives you room to breathe, room to exhale and room to just be you.
     

    jsmla

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 19, 2001
    :hug:

    My mom passed away not long before a trip. I would have cancelled but it involved friends from out of the country so we went. I won’t say it was the best time ever but it did me a lot of good to be away from everything for a week. I felt much more able to deal with everything when I got back.
     

    Bethany10

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    Thank you all. You're right Pumpkin1172, I just want the world to stop spinning long enough so I can get off and catch my breath.

    Just under 4 days to go and the we appear to be bringing the rain with us. The kids are getting excited. I'm beginning to think we should start packing.
     

    Dynamoliz

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 6, 2010
    It sounds like you have an amazing trip planned and will come away with wonderful family memories, and no doubt a fervent desire to plan your next getaway! By how you have described your mother I'm sure she'd be delighted for you, and would not want feelings of grief, or guilt, to hamper your holiday. I lost my Dad and fil within in months of each other 2017/2018 and it still feels a bit unreal to be without them. It takes time. We have had worries about mil's and bil's health ever since but have just made the decision, to heck with it, we are going forward planning an Orlando holiday in October. Hoping we will not have to cancel at the last minute -mil and bil really have no one but us to help them out if needed. But we can't just go on living worrying about what-ifs. So I can definitely relate to your story and am so pleased you're having a vacation. I am looking forward to reading your trip report.
     
  • Tink2Day

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 30, 2010
    I usually lurk on most reports (find exceptions to Schumi, Raeven and a couple on the Disney report side.

    So sorry for your loss:sad1::grouphug:.

    I've lost most of my family members in the last few years and whenever I take a trip to the parks or read the trip reports it certainly reminds me of them. What I'm trying to say in a round about way is that your Mom will always be with you, she would want you to enjoy this trip with your family and I'm sure you'll be finding yourself thinking how much she would have enjoyed seeing you, DH and the kids enjoying yourselves. Hope you have the greatest trip EVER!!!

    Yes I do think you should be packing, but that's coming from someone who would have started packing when first planning the trip.:rotfl2:
     

    Bethany10

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    Well, packing has commenced. Only to come to a screeching halt when we realized we were missing a suitcase. Seriously. We've managed to loose a bright pink large suitcase. I have no idea where it went. I loved that thing as I could see the bag coming off the carousel easily. We had to purchase a new one this afternoon. Packing will recommence shortly. As soon as I find the lock I bought to go with the pool bag (that I at least have a reason for loosing it's tiny). Walking off muttering about where that suitcase might have wound up.
     

    macraven

    Proud Redhead
    Moderator
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2003
    Now that you are there in Orlando, hope you and the family are having the best time of your life!

    This has to be an exciting vacation for you all!
     

    Bethany10

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    Update 6/12 Live from Cabana Bay!

    Where it's currently raining.

    Day 1 - travel day was uneventful. We had a late afternoon flight that caused us to be at the airport by 11. Just enough time to drop the dog off and get last minute things sorted. Flight was full but quiet and before I knew it we were landing in not so sunny Orlando.

    Our suitcases were some of the first off the plane, and we moseyed over to the rental car desk next. I'm loyal to Budget, right up until they want to charge twice as much as Alamo. We actually book through Costco, but then you deal with the rental car company directly once you log into your Costco travel account. It's certainly worth a price comparison if you have a Costco membership.

    Alamo won the cheaper for the week cost and the rental car counter was dead. We walked right up and had directions for picking out our vehicle before I could blink. I think we were in the airport for maybe 30 minutes and that included a potty break for everyone. T picked out our midsize SUV out of the row and we were off.

    First impressions: What a beautiful city. You can tell they get a lot of rain down here, everything is so green. I was expecting horrid traffic but it looked like we were going the right direction as the opposite lane was bumper to bumper commuter traffic. I was poking along following the phone directions when excited chatter from the backseat suddenly emerged. I looked up and there was volcano bay. You guys weren't kidding it's literally next to the highway. No wonder I read so many people concerned about the noise level when they were building it.

    We followed the directions and pulled up to Cabana bay. Check in was packed but they had almost every station open. This was the longest line I'd waited in all day. Finally it was our turn. We had pre-paid the room and I turned off room charges. They did ask us to pre-pay for parking which we happily did. No other charges to our credit card were made.

    Off to the sixth floor and our accidental pool room view. We opted for the family suite, at A's insistence that she was NOT going to share a bed with C. I was excited for the bit of room we would have and the pool view. we were in the far side of Continental on the 6th floor. Straight down our view was of the fire pit but if you look right far enough you got a nice view of the volcano. I excitedly motioned everyone over to point this out, they all just blinked at me.

    At this point it was late and everyone (including me) was really tired. My plans of cowfish for dinner were NOT going to happen. Down to the bayliner diner where we had a truly excellent meal for a not that outrageous price. T had some kind of steak with sauce, mashed potatoes and something else. C had a grilled cheese, A had a salad and I had a cheeseburger. We also got 4 refillable mugs and activated them for length of stay.

    Dinner enjoyed, we headed back up to the room. Both kids wanted to hit the pool. Sensing an opportunity to cash in my pool cup funds I agreed to take them. We walked back down to the pool area we discovered we were on the lazy river side. This is just a beautiful area and the weather was perfect, not oppressively humid but not freezing either. With both kids installed in the pool I headed over to the bar to get my pool cup. I opted for a
    Hideaway Colada, (Cruzan Black Cherry Rum, Piña Colada Island Oasis, Strawberry Island Oasis Lava Flow) it wasn't bad but with so many other options to try I doubt I'd get it again.

    Cup in one hand and my book in the other I headed for a lounge chair. Soon enough C found me and asked for a pool float. Here's where my first tactical error happened. We had been shooting to pay cash for as much as possible this trip, trying to keep ourselves on budget. Somewhere along the line I read that the pool float hut ONLY took cash. The very lovely attendant informed me that no, in fact they CAN'T take cash only plastic. A disappointed C headed back to the water while I called T and asked for the credit card. We were able to remedy the issue and get C his float.

    It was incredibly relaxing to lie on the chair, sip my drink and listen to the kids play in the pool. C happily moved between the pool and lazy river until I finally pried them both loose to head back to the room for the night. We then discovered the drawback to the pool view room. The noise. You could clearly hear the music from the pool, which coupled with the long day catching up to her caused A to have a bit of a meltdown. Fortunately Cabana Bay sells earplugs in its gift shop. We took advantage of that the next afternoon and she slept fine the next night.

    Next up: Our first day in the parks. Did I ever get to eat Cowfish? How long did my sloth family last once in the parks? These answers and more in our next installment.
     
    Last edited:

    macraven

    Proud Redhead
    Moderator
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2003
    Hope the rain doesn’t last very long

    You’re on vacation and need sunshine only

    I’m in the South and with the heat do get showers off and on some days this past week
     

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