There's a Starbucks in my hotel (and other revelations)... PT Report

Discussion in 'Universal Studios Trip Reports' started by prairiesarah, Feb 21, 2018.

  1. prairiesarah

    prairiesarah Mouseketeer

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    In an effort to channel my excitement over our trip into something productive, I decided to write a pre trip report and plan to write a trip report once we are back.

    We are heading to Orlando in 2 weeks and 3 days and I couldn't be more excited (March 9th to 16th). Will be myself (Sarah), DH (Thomas) and 12 year old DS (Wyatt) who is in Grade 6 this year. It will be the first trip for DH and I (beyond a couple hours at Citywalk in 2001 on our honeymoon) and second trip for DS who spent 1.5 days there with my BIL/SIL before we joined the trip in December 2015. We live in the middle of nowhere on the Canadian prairies (see below). We all love Scooby Doo, Jurassic Park, superhero’s and Harry Potter plus DS loves thrill rides.

    Saskatchewan_Design-2.png

    The whole idea to go to Orlando came about just after Christmas when the temperatures were in the minus 40's celsius. I was dreaming of a spring break trip and was pricing out flights to go to British Columbia to visit my parents for a few days, but for whatever reason decided to price out flights to Florida. Well, I was stunned that direct flights to Orlando for Friday to Friday trips (the only day Westjet flies direct) were ridiculously cheap in April (under $400 return taxes in which is unheard of). Prices in March were great too, just not quite as good - just under $600 each. We also happened to have a $99 companion flight voucher that had to be booked before March 1st, so it made the whole thing even more appealing. After some discussion amongst the three of us, we decided it was a great idea (and much more fun than going to Victoria again) and set about confirming with DH's family that it would work for us to be away (family business). We decided that March was better work wise and prices were not that much more, so settled on those dates which also put us there for my birthday which is a pretty great way to spend my 42nd birthday! Thankfully there was a non school day that week plus DS’s class ski trip, so he’s only missing 4 instructional days.

    Once we started thinking about this trip, I spend hours scouring VRBO. Our last trip we stayed in a house in Windsor Hills with DH's parents/siblings/kids - there were 11 of us so it made a house with a pool a good value and I really enjoyed the pace of that vacation. But after hours of research couldn't find anything for the three of us that felt right and was at a price point/unit size I was interested in. So plan B was a resort somewhere near Universal as we knew this trip was going to be zero Disney/all Universal. Checked out a couple resorts, but nothing felt right for the vacation. Then I finally realized I should check out the resorts at Universal. Well, one click and I was hooked.

    Initial plan was Cabana Bay - we liked the vibe of the hotel and the pools and the family suites were appealing although I did have a couple of hesitations about the resort (mainly the comfort of the beds). I had that booked then started reading on here extensively. Between wanting 6 park days (3 half/3 full-ish), the appeal of the express pass and the discounted rates for APH, we settled on getting Seasonal Passes (blockout dates aren’t an issue for us) and switched to Portofino Bay Hotel at a great APH rate. We will be spending 4 nights there, then heading out to the gulf coast to spend two nights with family there who are retired and down from Ontario for the winter, then back to Universal for one night at Royal Pacific Resort for my birthday. I really wanted to try both resorts and gave DH and DS the choice of which one we stayed at for the 4 night stretch. They both chose Portofino Bay Hotel and I told them I was fine with that choice because there was a Starbucks in the hotel. (I love coffee and DH jokingly refers to Starbucks as the Green Beacon as I have an uncanny ability to find one wherever we go).

    We found out after the last trip that DS LOVES thrill rides and I’ve already prepped him that he may have to go on some himself as his Dad and I just may not be able to go on some (motion simulators do us both in). He’s fine with that, but I did tell him that one of us would walk with him through the ride queue if he wanted. I am hoping that between some Gravol and psyching myself up I can try the roller coasters as they are something I’ve always wanted to do, but always too scared. I am typically find with that type of movement ok - its motion simulators that are the problem.

    DS was quite funny once we booked the trip - his comment was “the best part of this trip is that we will have photos….when I went with Uncle B, we didn’t get one photo, NOT ONE PHOTO!”. I am the photographer in the whole extended family, so not surprised they didn’t take any. I am planning to pack my DSLR camera into the parks a couple of days and then just my iPhone a couple others. I assured him I would take TONS of photos to make up for last time. The more we talk about the last trip the more I realize they barely touched the surface of what was in the parks - sounds like they did Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, Jurassic Park, and the roller coasters and that is about it. Didn’t go into any of the stores or eat in the parks beyond getting Starbucks one day.

    The plan so far;

    March 9th - arrive 2ish, pick up rental car, stop at Target for a couple things (snacks etc) and because well, I love Target (and was so sad when they didn’t last in Canada), check in to the hotel, deal with upgrading our tickets to seasonal passes, parks (thinking of seeing the castle light show this night), swimming, dinner etc.

    March 10th/11th/12th- will be blackout dates for US for us on Sat/Sun (and the Mardi Gras festivities really hold no appeal to us so not a big deal), so will tour IOA, hit up Volcano Bay if the weather is good, plus go to the outlet mall one of these afternoons - that was my one request for this trip as I should be able to find the couple things on my shopping list there in one stop and hopefully we can find a good deal on some shoes for DS as I swear I am going to go broke keeping him in shoes. (12 years old and in an 11 mens shoe!)

    March 13th/14th - checkout early-ish in the morning of the 13th, and head to the gulf coast to visit DH’s relatives for two nights. She says they will take us on a wild beach walk and hopefully see dolphins and hoping we can go to the area where they have observation decks to see the manatees which should still be there. Told my DH and DS we’re stopping in Sarasota en route as they have a Fabletics store there and I’ve always wanted to order but am hesitant on the sizing so was excited to find out they have a few stores around.

    March 15th - head back to Universal, likely early (hoping we can be back by noon), check into Royal Pacific Resort, spend the rest of the day doing whatever we feel we need more of - rides, pool time etc. Book dinner for Antijotos for my birthday this night.

    March 16th - our flight doesn’t leave until 4:30pm, so thinking we will leave around 12/12:30 so we can make a stop at Target or Walmart to hopefully pick up the new Decemberists album that is being released that day (my favourite band), so will have breakfast somewhere then let DS decide what he wants more of before we leave - swimming or rides.

    Plans for the week include lots of rides, lots of photos, lots of Starbucks, checking out all the stores in hopes of finding some Scooby Doo merchandise, swimming, trying out a few of the restaurants (Thunder Falls, Simpsons Food Court, Sal’s to name a few, maybe BICE).

    Currently on my to do list - dig out our shorts and sandals and make sure DS still has summer clothes that fit. Then start making a packing pile.

    If anyone has made it this far, thanks for reading along : ). I figured this was a good place to find others who are as excited about planning their trips as I am. Cannot wait for the trip and while I am a bit sad we only have a week (shortest trip we’ve taken to Florida), the appeal of direct flights and work-wise it was best, but will make the most of the 7 days we have!
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
  2. macraven

    macraven Proud Redhead Moderator

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    I can’t wait until you do the trip and come back to tell us about it!

    I know it will be fantastic

    :yay:
     
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  4. schumigirl

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

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    So close to your trip!!!

    Looking forward to reading all about it Sarah......sounds like Universal Orlando will be a good fit for your family.......and you have some lovely plans in there.......

    And you have a birthday to celebrate too! Nice.........:)
     
  5. bobbie68

    bobbie68 DIS Veteran

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    Hi sounds like a great trip planned. I started doing a pre-trip last year then did my trip report when I got back this past summer. We are going in June again and I will be doing another pre-trip. It does help get excited about the trip and it is so nice to share with others on this site who feel the same way.

    Have a great trip and will look for your report!
     
  6. christophfam

    christophfam DIS Veteran

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    I’ll be looking forward to reading your trip report. It will help me get more excited for my April trip!
     
  7. prairiesarah

    prairiesarah Mouseketeer

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    Thank you all!! Been very appreciative off all the mods and regulars on here who are happy to share their wealth of knowledge on all things UO. I feel that I've got all the planning done that I need to do and that there's lots of room for setting our agenda when we get up each morning. I never know whether we're going to be able to sleep in while on vacation or be awake at the crack of dawn (usually the later as we dairy farm and DH is up at 4:00am most mornings which is hard to turn off for vacation).

    The only thing I'm worried about for the whole trip is the drive out to the gulf coast - I do all the driving and last trip I DID NOT enjoy the traffic on I4. But will get over that and if its really bad on the way out, will take the alternate inland route on the way back.

    Two weeks from now, I'll be sitting at the airport waiting for my flight to load!
     
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  8. christophfam

    christophfam DIS Veteran

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    Two weeks! Gosh, I wish it was that soon for me! Make sure you avoid rush hour on I4. If you can avoid rush hour, you should be fine. I drive that way frequently as I have family in the area. It is at its worst at rush hour and will also get backed up at opening and closing of Disney if the parks are crowded.
     
  9. prairiesarah

    prairiesarah Mouseketeer

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    Thank you - that does make me feel a bit better. I do think the timing of our trip and the days I was on I4 had a little bit to do with the level of traffic. We were there Xmas week 2015 - we went to Legoland on December 21st and out to Siesta Key on December 24th. Drove back into Orlando during rush hour on the 24th which was HORRIFYING traffic. This trip we have no set times we need to be anywhere and with travelling out and staying over two nights, we'll be able to travel between rush hours (rather than trying to make the most of a day trip out there).
     
  10. JAMIESMITH

    JAMIESMITH DIS Veteran

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    Following...we are planning an October 2019 trip to Universal and I’m torn between PBH and RPR. We may book whichever is cheaper.
     
  11. prairiesarah

    prairiesarah Mouseketeer

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    With this being our first trip and having a break to go out to the coast for the two nights, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try both hotels and see which we liked better as I anticipate this will be the first of many trips. I'll definitely provide my thoughts after we've stayed at both from a first timer perspective.
     
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  12. schumigirl

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

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    I hope you’re really happy with both hotels, they’re both lovely.......it’s nice you get to stay at both......
     
  13. prairiesarah

    prairiesarah Mouseketeer

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    Three more days!!! Got the suitcases out and starting to pack and dig out all our summer clothes. We've started the week with two snow days which is not ideal and was not anticipated in March - not super happy about DS missing another two days of school when we're taking him out all next week but not too much we can do about that. We had more snow between Sunday afternoon and this morning than we have had all winter this year. Thankfully it has stopped now and there is low possibility of a small amount more this afternoon so we can start digging out. And also thankful it was now and not Friday morning as I don't think there would have been any way we were getting to the airport if we had been trying to get to a flight yesterday morning - my BIL walked by on the way to the barn yesterday morning and had to dig out our back door so DH could get out because the snow had drifted half way up it.

    Anyway, counting down now and have a very excited 12 year old on my hands as well. Looking forward to switching out my winter boots for flip flops on Friday!
     

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