A NON-DISNEY trip report with some Disney flair...June 2012 Trip Report (7/9 update)
:goodvibes Hello and WELCOME to my non-Disney Trip Report with some Disney Flair! You can find most of my PTR information in my link in my signature to read about how this trip developed as part of my 2 trips in 2012 that soon became THREE trips in 2012!
Here is the short version for now though.
PLAN: We knew we wanted to celebrate the end of the school year for the kids by doing some kind of trip. Since I am in the middle of a job change that will most likely be sometime this summer, we knew we'd have to do any long trips early because I may not have any leave to do a trip later in the year. We already have a Disney Cruise and Park Trip scheduled for November 2012 and so I'd need to start storing up leave at my new job as soon as possible to save it for that trip. We decided to do a long weekend in Florida to hit a few non-Disney parks.
One night at dinner we had the kids do an anonymous vote, write down their top three vacation destinations for us on a piece of paper. The only rule was that it had to be in the US and within driving distance, and yes Florida, despite being a 14+ hour drive, was allowed. Two out of three kids chose Disney as one of their 3 choice, but we ruled that out due to our impending trip. My oldest chose SeaWorld, since he had not been there since we was about four years old! One other kid chose Busch Gardens, but she was referring to the Williamsburg location which we have visited a few times over the years. So that helped solidify our decision for Florida and we'd visit SeaWorld (last visit was in Feb 2004), Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (never been), and Legoland (never been). My 7yo DS is a Lego FANATIC but only knew about the California park, so didn't even know the Florida park was an option. So for 12yo DS we picked SeaWorld, for 9yo DD we picked Busch Gardens and for 7yo DS we picked Legoland. There would be something for everybody, but all would be a surprise to be revealed only when we pulled up to the gates of these parks!
The original plan was to drive, but eventually we decided to take the Autotrain down instead. We had taken it last June and enjoyed it and got a good rate on the trip. My in-laws would be joining us on this trip as well, but it would be their first Autotrain trip and they were looking forward to that as well.
So our kids last day of school was Friday June 8th, but we would pull them out of school in the morning on Wed. June 6th. We'd hit the road for the hour drive south to the Amtrak Autotrain station. Train would depart at about 4pm, an overnight trip to Florida. We would arrive on Thursday June 7th and the plan was as follows:
Thursday June 7th: Morning/afternoon at Seaworld, check into our room at Mystic Dunes Resort that afternoon
Friday June 8th: Day at Legoland
Saturday June 9th: Day at Busch Gardens Tampa
Sunday June 10th: Another 1/2 day at SeaWorld
Monday June 11th: Drive back to Maryland
I was hoping to add some Disney flair to our trip by planning a few Disney Restaurant meals (only in resorts, not in the parks) and maybe doing some Disney Minigolf or perhaps even doing the Hoop-de-Doo Musical Revue one night as a surprise. Would we manage to fit any of these things into our non-Disney trip? Stay tuned...it's gonna get good I PROMISE!! :rotfl: :rotfl:
June 6th: Failing math? Well ok, gotta go!
Woke up and got everybody on the bus for school...and then it was time to get packed! I put together most of our last minute stuff and then headed to the kennel to drop off our doggie! After that, I came back home and helped DH get the car packed. We had a system worked out for the Autotrain because I was sure that they did not allow external luggage carriers, which we had attached to the back of our SUV. So we had half of the luggage packed in the back and I made sure that when we got to the Autotrain station, we could removed the bag with the remaining luggage, throw it into the back of the SUV, and then also put the luggage rack in there. We did a trial run at my request and it worked, although it was a bit tight.
At just before 11am I headed out to get the kids from school. First stop was middle school for my oldest. I arrived and asked the front desk to get him checked out. It took a while but then he was in his math class. The teacher apparently responded that he would be missing his math final exam. Now of course my son knew for a while that he would be missing Wed thru the end of the week (last day of school was Friday) and I had told the kids over and over to make sure they let the teachers know and got all of their stuff. Well of course this was not communicated to DS 12's math teacher, but what could I do now? Eventually two other admin people came out from the back office to once again inform me that he'd be missing his math final. My response...well he missed it unless she wants to send it home to me at this point. I let them know this would be his last day for the week, then they also had me write a note to excuse those last two days. There was nothing to be done...we weren't postponing the trip, so he'd just have to fail math. Yes this was a real possibility for quarter, as he had a low C in the class already.
I tried to forget about all of this as we headed next to the elementary school so I could get the 2nd and 3rd grader. Of course the front desk people AND the principal were excited for us and did not give me a hard time about it at all. it took longer than usual again to get the 2nd grader, who as it turns out was across the hall in lunch! Soon we were home and on the road to the Autotrain station.
We stopped on our way down to get some fast food and then we were off, making it to the train station in about an hour with no traffic...rare in Northern Virginia! There were some people there but not too many, and then we learned that we COULD keep our rear luggage rack on the car WITH our luggage on it. GREAT! Good thing to know for next time! ;)
Kids were anxious to get on the train of course, so the 1 hour wait or so until we could board was FOREVER for them! :rotfl: The only excitement was regarding "Tito". Since the Autotrain is a non-stop 18+ hour journey, no pets are allowed since they are no pet stops! Well at one point we see a woman with a small doggie in her purse, and she is trying to quiet him so she heads for the bathroom. My MIL goes in and says the woman was on the floor in the stall saying 'Shhh...Tito...SHHH' so we could not wait to see how this played out!
Soon we were lined up and heading to our vehicle, and behind us was Tito's mom...with Tito secure in his doggie purse she was carrying! Soon we saw her being confronted by an Amtrak employee...she was so close and we were sure she was then busted! Tito would not be making the train ride after all! :rotfl:
We got onto the train and found our three roomettes. We put the three kids in one, and DH and I took the one across the hall with his parents in the one next to the kids. Here the kids are in their room:
We got ourselves settled and as it approached 3pm we knew where to head next...the lounge car for the free wine and cheese cocktail hour before dinner! :woohoo:
It was here where the adults enjoyed some free wine and cheese and played some dice and card games and the kids had some soda and snacks as well.
About an hour or so later, it was time for dinner. We enjoyed another nice meal on the Autotrain that included dessert. I had a salmon that was prepared pretty well and the other adults had a beef dish.
We were pretty fully from dinner so we relaxed back in the rooms for a little while. The movie for the evening was not one we were familiar with but at one point we did return to the lounge for a little while. The kids had some hot chocolate and cookies and we played some more dice games. Soon the kids were begging to return to the rooms to get to sleep so that's what we did!
By the next morning we would be arriving at the Sanford, Florida station...and how would that go?? :confused3
That stinks that your kiddo had to fail Math. :guilty:
Can't believe a lady tried to smuggle a pooch onto the train!
Anxious to hear more! popcorn::
I am going to try to get more of this done today since I am at home all day unexpectedly so should have some free time. I have to run DH to an appointment in about an hour where we will hopefully determine just how interesting our next few weeks will be since he is now in a temporary cast on his right leg from foot to lower thigh due to a Father's Day mishap! We spent from 9:30pm until about 1am in the E/R last night with a diagnosis of a torn achilles tendon...but we don't know how bad it is yet and if surgery will be required. Fun fun fun and of course it's his right leg, meaning he can barely get into a car right now...and forget driving it!
It's going to be interesting around here for sure. :)
So sorry to hear about you DH! That's awful!! I hope it's nothing serious and he recovers SUPER quick!! Sending out healing vibes! Be sure to keep us posted!!!!
Yes DH has a torn muscle in his right calf. We won't know the full extent until we see the orthopedic tomorrow for a follow-up to discuss the MRI results. There's a good chance it will just require healing and no surgery, which is good news. Again, glad he did it AFTER vacay! The bad news is that it's his right leg, so he has no use of it and that means NO DRIVING! So I am spending a lot of time on the road now, taking him to work, the kids to camp, picking him and kids up from camp, getting myself to work. Plus now I get to do the lawn as well. Oh it's just tons of fun around here! With any luck though, he'll be a bit healed in about 2-3 weeks. ;)
June 7th: Yes I must have some Disney flair on my trip!
So the train ride went well. I slept about as good as I did on the train ride last year. I was hoping to get the more comfortable bottom bunk of our roomette, but my DH travels with a C-PAP machine and it was just too hard to get it to work well plugged in and if he was on the top bunk. So once again, I had the top bunk but it was fine. ;)
The next morning we woke up and heard my FIL outside talking to the kids. It was probably close to 7am and he and my MIL were taking the kids down to the dining car for breakfast. So I got up and got changed and cleaned up and so did DH and then we headed down to the dining car. The five of them were already eating at a table together and there was no room near them, so we were seated elsewhere and were joined soon by an older couple.
They were so nice and they were from the Virginia area and were on their way to their new home...in FLORIDA! They had both retired from their jobs a few days earlier, had packed up both of their vehicles, loaded them on the train and were headed to their new home. They told us all about the new house, their kids, their travels, it was just so fascinating. They were both just lovely and it was hard to even leave them after the meal because I wanted to stay and talk to them! However eventually we did have to get back to our own family! :rotfl:
It wasn't long before we were pulling into the station and we sat outside and watched them unloading the cars from the train cars. And we watched. And watched. And watched. You see each car as they drive it off the train car and it rolls past you so you know when yours has been unloaded, even though they call the numbers on the cars as well.
The kids were getting impatient after about 30 minutes. By 40 minutes it was getting crazy and I noticed the station was pretty empty and there wasn't really anybody standing around us. Oh but at one point I did look over to see a woman I recognized from the Lorton station...and she had her big purse...with her doggie Tito inside of it! So I guess Tito did somehow make the trip. I would love to know how that worked.
Anyway if you haven't guessed by now, were pretty much the second to LAST vehicle to be unloaded from the train! :rotfl: But of course! So now it was close to about 10am (it took about 45 minutes to unload all of the cars) and we were hungry as breakfast on the train is very light: cereal, bananas, muffins and such. So where would we go first? Well LUNCH of course!
As it turns out, I had an 11am reservation for T-Rex in Downtown Disney! We did the exact same thing last year. Got off the train and went to lunch at Downtown Disney, and we loved the food there. I almost didn't bother with a ressie this time, since last year we walked right into the place. Well we arrived and a line quickly formed behind us...and it was just before 11am and the restaurant opened at 11am! It quickly got busy so I was glad for that ressie after all!
DH was really hoping to get seated in a new portion of the restaurant this time, but wouldn't you know it, we were seated practically in the SAME PLACE as last year. I mean, if it wasn't the same table we were maybe next to the table we had last year! ;)
Well we made the best of it:
Kids took tons of photos but most are almost just like last year! :rotfl2: Go figure!
It was okay, we were there for the food and once again it did NOT DISAPPOINT! We started with a chips and dips dish. I think it had two kinds of dip and tortilla chips. I was okay, not enough dip for my liking:
DH and I split the main dish that he got last year. It was a ribs and chicken feast and it was great. The ribs...so yummy:
Chicken was great too:
We had no room for dessert but we left the restaurant with some nice full bellies and ready to start our day!
However first...well my DS7 loves Lego and he's really never been around this store in Downtown Disney. So we took the chance to just check out some cool lego stuff and take some more photos...of course!
You may have noticed how shy my daughter is and how much she hates having her photo taken right? :rotfl: :rotfl:
She insisted on a pose with this lady as well:
The kids wanted to stop in the stores, including the Lego store, but knowing we were pressed for time on this very short trip, I had to nix that idea! Soon it was back in the car and off to our next destination!
I did decided to call the resort to see if there was any hope of checking in early there, but they told me the best they could do was 2pm. Rather than wait until then (it was just about 1pm) we decided we'd just head to a park instead!
So we were off...next stop: SEAWORLD!! :)
The first place I thought you all were going to pick was Universal. Slightly surprised at the three choices. We were at Busch Gardens Tampa a few years ago...interested to see what(if anthing has changed). Love how you still managed to include a little bit of Disney in your trip!
Yes, we actually went to Disney last June...for a longer trip...and did the Universal parks for that trip. So that's why Universal was not an option this time around. I think there is a link in my siggy below to the June 2011 report. :)
We live very close to BG Williamsburg and have always enjoyed that park. So we thought it would be nice to try the Tampa park. Plus my kids are really thrill ride junkies and BG would have more of that for them. ;)
I definitely had to squeeze a little bit of Disney into this trip though. Stay tuned to find out just how much though....:rotfl:
There just are not enough hours in the day these days doe me to get here. I read and try to respond to my subscribed threads and that is about it. So a quick life update is what you get as I prepare o get up and ready to play an 8:30am tennis match this morning.
First my hubby and his foot. Torn muscle in his right calf. I am still driving him to/from work each day and getting my kids to/ from summer camp each day and also getting myself to/from work each day. No they are not all that close. Hubby is gonna attempt to drive for the first time in over two weeks tomorrow.
Second my job situation. My boss has been a real jerk lately. I took my first mental health day ever in 15 years there on Friday. I am now turning in my resignation on Monday. Got official paperwork for my new job on Saturday. More money, better schedule, more time off, can't wait. I am quiting the current job earlier than planned due to current stress there. I will have about 3 weeks off between jobs.
Third and final news is my brother and his wife had their first baby last Friday. So glad I was already off that day due to my own doc appointment. He is awesome but unfortunately had to go to NICU two days after coming home because he is having trouble maintaining his body temp. So far he's doing better and hopefully will come back home this Tuesday.
So I apologize for my slacking here but I should have plenty of time soon enough to get back to this. Really can't wait to share more details of our fun trip!
June 7th (cont'd): Surprise Park #1: SeaWorld!
We left the parking lot of Downtown Disney and headed towards SeaWorld. I think at this point I had handed my oldest son a map of the Orlando Area and he was trying to get me to hint at where we were going. Of all of the kids, he was (and is) the WORST one to surprise. You would think I've done it enough to know his reaction is so terrible and stop doing it. Then again, it's not fair to the other kids since I can't just surprise them and not him...I know he'd probably tell them! :)
So we approached the exits and I do think the kids were seeing signs for Universal Studios and still thinking we were headed there...even though I'd told them it was NOT an option. Then my DD spotted the SeaWorld signs and she knew that's where we were headed.
They spotted the coasters and were getting excited...until I let them know they would probably not be able to ride those. Let me say my kids, especially DD9, are all about the RIDES! Do you think SeaWorld would have enough to keep them happy? :confused3
We walked into the park and decided to get some photos.
Two out of three kids...the youngest one refused:
The whole hot and sweaty gang:
We decided to head towards the dolphin feeding area because my daughter decided if they weren't going to ride a lot of rides, she HAD to feed dolphins. That was her DREAM of course! So we got there and spotted the LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG line to line up just to pay to get into the area to feed the dolphins...and it wasn't even feeding time yet. We stood there for a while and then realized...even if it did open there was still a chance we wouldn't make it into the feeding session. So, with MUCH PROTEST from my daughter, we got out of line. I promised her we'd make another trip back to SeaWorld in the next few days and get in EARLY just so she could feed the dolphins!
So next to our line was an area to feed stingrays, so DH and MIL bought some shrimp and we all spent some time here. I'm not sure anybody but DH managed to successfully get the stingray to take a shrimp from them, but it was fun to watch for a while.
Getting some help from her grandpop:
Ok, so then we decided to try to appease the kids with a ride they could ALL do. We stopped by Turtle Trek but that wait was 30+ minutes and I knew it wasn't a real RIDE...so we headed over to Journey to Atlantis. There was a line of course and I think it said a 30 minute wait...maybe more? I'm not sure but we figured it might be the ONLY ride for that day so we got into the line...again with MUCH PROTEST from kids. As we were in line it started raining, so at least we were undercover...as we got ready to go on a WATER RIDE! :rotfl2:
Anyway, we probably waited a good 45 minutes or so before we got on the ride, and of course everybody seemed to enjoy it.
After that, it was still looking pretty gloomy out but I decided I wanted to do ONE MORE THING and that was the Pets Ahoy show. DH and I had done it years ago on an adults-only trip and my kids love animals...and it was indoors. So we made the trek over to the show and of course it started raining as we approached, but we finally got inside and it was PACKED of course. We sat near the back.
Sorry no photos, as I mostly tried to do video here. The kids did enjoy the show of course.
When it was done, we decided to make a day of it and just head back to finally check into our room and get cleaned up and refreshed for the day.
Thankfully there was a very short line and checkin. I rushed in and out in the pouring rain. Oh and as I was running back out I was stopped by the concierge desk...or so I thought...and they said they had a gift for me. Of course I should have known better...they were trying to set me up for a time to do a timeshare presentation! UGH! They were nice about it, quickly rattled off stuff but I managed to basically let them know I just did not have time for their breakfast presentation because we had PARKS to visit each morning and they were ones we had to drive to and so our time was very short. They didn't push the issue, and I got my free "gifts" which were a small bag with mostly a few samples of stuff like shampoo or lotion and a ton of brochures. Yeah...so not worth it but of course you get other free stuff if you attend their breakfast timeshare presentation!
I was soon out and before long we were stepping foot into our room:
View from the door:
King bedroom suite:
Living room and comfy couch:
Looking towards kitchen:
Eating area and kitchen:
We found the room quite nice with plenty of space. First order was unpacking the car, and it was now POURING down rain so we tried to do that quickly!
We got inside and settled and then it was time for SHOWERS! AHHHHHH!!! And also...food! Everybody was hungry by now and while the plan was to order something, I had packed a cooler in our car with bread and peanut butter and jelly and some other stuff, so I ended up making several PB&J Sandwiches for the kids which they scarfed down...so of course they were no longer hungry for dinner!
We ordered pizza from Giordanos after finding a menu for them. We had ordered from them in the past so we knew the food was good. This time we just got two medium pizzas which was perfect since it was just the four adults eating. It was good.
I believe the rest of the evening was just unpacking and relaxing for the most part. I think at some point DH and MIL did run out for a very quick grocery run, but I think they just went to Walgreens and picked up a few things mostly for breakfast.
We may have also played a round or two of Farkle (a dice game in case you aren't familiar) that evening after dinner just to unwind.
We had a big day the next day...it would be surprise park #2!
June 8th: Surprise Park #2 - LEGOLAND!
We had breakfast in our room Friday morning so that we could be on the road by about 8:30am. The kids still had no idea where we were going...and this was making DS 12 NUTS! :)
For some reason, the drive did not take nearly as long as we had planned and it was just before 9:30am when the kids noticed the signs...and guessed where we would be going. And for DS7, who is a Lego FANATIC, this was the look on his face:
Especially when he saw this:
He was speechless!
As we went through the gates and paid for parking, the parking attendant made sure to let us know that the chance of rain that day was I think 60% and that there would be NO RAINCHECKS. There was a chance rides might shutdown due to rain. We were willing to chance it and in fact DH even said he was COUNTING on rain...that would keep the crowds away! :rotfl:
Well the one place we did not have to worry about crowds was in the parking lot. We ended up pretty much right up front and were probably only one of MAYBE a dozen cars in the lot already...and some of those were in handicapped or special parking.
I know it's hard to tell but here is where we parked:
Really only about 4 cars from the front. We kept laughing about this, finding it just hilarious that we were SO early and had parked SO close. Of course it's hard not to think of National Lampoons Vacation and tease about parking at the BACK of the park to be the first ones out...I'm sure that came up as well!
Soon we saw this:
And I took this of my happy DS 7:
A small group shot:
Anyway we already had our tickets when I handed out to everybody. We were the first ones in line at one of the gates looking over at this, one of many, many lego creations we'd see that day, awaiting us:
As we entered the park, I let everybody know I had a plan. There would be no deviation from the PLAN! I knew just what places we'd be hitting first based on some websites I'd been reading, and the morning they would be listening to my directions as to which rides we'd be hitting first. As usual, nobody complained.
The problem is that the map didn't seem as easy to read as I thought, but at one point we did end up at a smaller roped off area...ready to go. We didn't have to wait too long and then I lead my entire group PAST all kinds of rides because I as on a mission...and I knew there were three rides we'd have to hit FIRST if we hoped to avoid lines later in the day. They were near the back of the park, and so we walked and walked and walked and walked until we found those rides.
First up: Boating School
I thought this was a really cute ride. I loved that you were not on a track at all but were driving the boat through the course on your own. We were the only ones there so it was just our family. I ended up in a boat by myself I think, but I did notice the first of many signs we'd see that day at the rides. They showed a lot of rides with a MINIMUM (not MAXimum) of two riders per boat. They really did not want to encourage people riding alone, I'm sure to keep the lines down. We did split up a little bit here but we were the only ones here at the time and of course there were 7 of us so it's not like we would have a choice most of the time.
So after this ride, I asked if the kids wanted to go again...but nobody was interested. Ok then... a few photos before leaving here:
Next up would be DRIVING SCHOOL. This ride is very similar to a ride the kids have been on at King's Dominion in Virginia, but I knew they would enjoy it. After all, once again, no track and you get to just drive the cars around all by yourself. Now I will note that at KD they don't really enforce the traffic rules all that much. Well here was a different story! They had several workers out and about watching over the kids, but again it was just my three kids on this ride! I should note also that while in the line they had each kid stop to take a photo for their driver's license. I thought this was pretty cool...at the time...but you'll soon learn why it wasn't as cool as I thought and I should have known better! :confused3
Anyway for the most part my kids did actually follow the lights and stop signs, but a few times we caught them running stop signs...and we called them out. Most of the time it was my OLDEST 12yo son. My oh my when he starts driving...I am going to be VERY scared! :rotfl2:
Ok some photos of that ride:
I just thought this was cute too:
My automobile-obsessed husband on the other hand...thought this was cool and now he wants one of these:
So when the ride was all over, we had to exit through the gift shop...of course. And what was waiting for us...the driver's licenses...of course! Now that piece of plastic with their photo was cool, I admit...but it was NOT $14.95 cool! Yes that would be each, and it did include the little lanyard plastic holder for them. Of course, I had no intention of paying for those once I heard those prices and honestly I am sure the kids would have gotten over it too. However...there were grandparents present...and they wanted to buy them for them and they did.
Can you guess how long before they forgot all about them? I'm not even sure we can find them now. ;)
Anyway, last but not least of the first three big rides to hit that morning was FLYING SCHOOL. Sorry no photos here as I was riding on this one. It was a hanging coaster, very similar to one we've been on at Carowinds in SC before. And just about as rough for the most part. My DS7 really wanted to ride in the front of the coaster so we did wait one extra ride, letting the rest of the family go first (with my DH and DD9 in the front) and then we rode the next ride. It was fine and having gotten the first three rides done in about an hour or less, we were making some GREAT time!
I should have warned you up front, but I took over 200 PHOTOS at Legoland. When my parents saw that album they could not believe I took THAT MANY PHOTOS just of Legoland. However there were cool things there and lots of Lego creations that I just had to photograph. Don't worry, I doubt I will get around to posting all 200 of them here but if you want a private link to view them all, shoot me a PM and I can provide it for you!
UP NEXT: More LEGOLAND!
Not quite a month later and I am going to do my best to finish this trip report. There is so much I want to share and I'm not even sure my memory will be able to recall all of it from two months ago now! :rotfl:
Anyway life just has been busy. I resigned from a job where I had been for 15 years and it was the best decision ever. My stress level is so much lower right now...of course so is my bank account since I'm officially unemployed for a little while. I do start a new job August 20th.
Last week was my first week of unemployment and my kids were still in summer camp and still I got nothing done at home! This week is the kids' last week of summer camp and I'm hoping to maybe get a little more done. I have a new computer and I've been busy getting it all setup so it would be nice to get a little more time to do some stuff on it.
So I promise to get back here for this trip report and now I'm off to update on the latest news for our NEXT Disney trip in November!!!
Loving your TR! I was excited to see someone do Legoland. Too funny about your oldest and those stop signs! :laughing: We're planning to check this place out later this year or next spring. I'm having trouble deciding what the "best" age for it is. (My guys are 4 and 6, but the little one is a short thing..) Excited to see some of these pictures!!
Glad your stress level is better with the job decision. :thumbsup2 Enjoy the rest of your summer!
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