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Old 02-09-2013, 02:30 PM   #1
coastgirl
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PTR/TR: Without the Mouse, Round 2. Flexpasses, Lego & Emerald Is. villa in Aug 2013

Here I sit on a February morning, watching the snow fall, dreaming of better things!

We first took the kids to Disney in 2006, when ds was 5 and dd was 3. Neither dh nor I had been to a theme park as kids or adults (unless you count that one day at Canada’s Wonderland back in ’87…). It was pretty special, with a princess-loving girl and a Stitch-loving boy. We returned to Disney two more times, and took a Disney cruise 5 years ago…aaaaand we’re done with Disney. Pretty much, anyway.

We have looked for other affordable family trips, and we keep getting pulled back to Orlando. Two years ago we rented a house for the first time and got the Orlando Flexpass so we could take the kids to WWoHP. We had a great time.

A few things you need to know. I’m cheap. No, make that *thrifty* . We don’t like crowds. (Which goes well with cheap usually, as we have lots of reasons to prefer the off-season.) I have been known to make my family wear matching t-shirts. And we’re bringing the dog.

We live in Nova Scotia, Canada. Dh and I are ~ahem~ older parents (late bloomers!) to a 12.5 year old son and a 10-years-old-next week daughter. In November we acquired our first dog, a little Havanese we named Feliz. (Which means “Happy” in Spanish apparently.) One of the many reasons we chose that breed is that she’s small enough to travel with us. I hope she doesn’t get air-sick!

We have been “thrifty” for the past two years and took vacations we could drive to, in Canada. Fun, yep. Fun, fun, fun. But that last trip to Fl, we had a really nice house with our own pool for about 100 bucks a night, and days with Harry Potter, and it was nice and warm, and, and…

So here we are with Orlando in the plans again. Thrifty me has been collected “Air miles” for, oh, three or four years now, and I finally had almost enough to get us there.

Dh, God love ‘im, loves to plan as much as I do, but he’s even *thriftier* and we usually run into his cold feet when it comes to booking. So I was almost speechless when he said “let’s do it” and then actually booked the time off work.

Ds is in junior high now, and I don’t feel right taking him out for more than a day or two, AND I hate travelling for only one week, so summer vacation seems the only option. But add back the cheap and hates crowds, so we picked as late in August as we could…Aug 10-24. Lots of US school districts are back in school by then, and we’re right on the cusp of the shoulder season.

After some serious obsessing about Air Miles points and available flights, we booked Halifax-Orlando on Air Canada. I paid about $1000 in taxes and fees for our “free” tickets, but to buy four tickets on that route would be between $3200-$4000, depending on whether I could get a seat sale. We also found a great villa in Emerald Island resort. Pet-friendly too!

So here’s the current status of planning:

We have our air tickets. We’ve booked our villa and sent the deposit. We’re making a list of our favourite US restaurants, and shopping spots. I’m thinking it’s a good time to do some back-to-school clothes shopping for the kids. I’ve found retailers for our brand of dog food (which I’ve been warned maybe inadvisable to try to carry across the border). Got the forms for renewing our passports. Decided on Flexpasses, as we have two full weeks. What with the cheap and hating crowds parts, the Flexpass gives us lots of options, and we can visit for a few hours at a time, rather than trying to “make the most” of a few specific park days.

Still need to figure out the best value/configuration for tickets. I have enough FF points in another account to buy some portion of our tickets that way, but need to work out the best deal.

My ds, though he will be a newly-minted teen by then (turns 13 a week before we leave) is a serious Lego nerd, so we are adding a day at Legoland to the list. Dd is also looking forward to it, as she has been “dragged along” a little on the whole Lego thing, but loves the Lego Harry Potter stuff, and the new Lego Friends line. (Best Thing Ever from Lego for girls, thankyouverymuch.)

We are also serious Harry Potter nerds, as a family. We loved WWoHP in 2010, and that’s really what’s pulling us back. Ds was lucky enough to get his wand at Ollivander’s last time, and it only seems fair that now that dd is turning 10, she should get a chance to get her wand too. Ds still says being selected at Ollivander’s is one of his greatest memories ever. I really hope dd gets the same experience, and we are prepared to line up several times if that’s what it takes. (I guess she has about a 1/20 chance of being selected, but hopefully young, cute and earnest will up her odds somewhat.) I love sharing this video, this is ds getting his wand in 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwBNDkZYuXw
We are not thrill-riders, so the rest of US wouldn’t be enough to get us there, but we’ll poke around and see what else is fun.

We enjoyed Seaworld and Aquatica a lot last time, and I’m looking forward to having more time there. Very nice parks, great family feel, and we love the combination of animal exhibits and rides. (We also really love Animal Kingdom for the same reasons, which I know isn’t everyone’s favourite Disney park.) I have discovered through this forum about “Dine with Shamu” and that seems like a really neat activity we will probably do.

We like DTD a lot and will get most of our Disney fix that way. I think we’re also going to have to do the Stitch breakfast at the Poly, which has been a fixture of all our Orlando trips. I wanted to do another character meal, the Cinderella meal at the GF, but it’s sooo expensive now that my 13 and 10 year olds are “adults”. I think Dinner with Shamu will be our sub for that one.

I’m happy that one day at Legoland and some quality time in the Wizarding World are our only must-do’s. We are really looking forward to spreading out in our lovely big house, getting lots of pool and hot tub time , and enjoying American culinary highlights like Cracker Barrel and Waffle House. Oh, and that frozen key lime pie you can get at Publix…yum!

I’m also looking forward to hassle-free travel. In recent years we’ve driven from NS to NH to fly SWA out of Manchester NH. (Yeah. “Thrifty”.) It’s a 1000-km/10-hr drive just to get to the airport, which we usually break up with a stopover with family along the way. And I don’t remember the last time we had ONE accommodation reservation for a trip. Last time, let’s see, there were two nights on the road with family, two nights at hotels in NH pre-/post-flight, and our selected villa wasn’t available for the whole time, so we ended up with a few nights at Floridays. This time we get up out of our own beds on Saturday am and we are in Orlando by noon. We sleep in our villa that night, and stay there until it’s time to go back to the airport two weeks later. Get on a plane around lunch time and we’re back in our own beds that night.

Lots more planning to do. And what shall I put on the t shirts this time??
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JoAnne in NS
with dh, ds 12, and dd 10

1st trip May/June 06
Jan/Feb 07, same crew at CBR. DCL Magic Eastern Dec 07 CSR Sept 2009
Universal/WWoHP in Sunset Lakes villa Feb 2010 Same again Aug 2013 in Emerald Island villa

PTR/TR Without the Mouse Round 2
TR: First visit to Universal/SeaWorld Feb 2011
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Old 02-09-2013, 02:46 PM   #2
Metro West
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Good start...keep updating.
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Old 02-10-2013, 08:48 PM   #3
Nancy for Disney
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Great start. Thanks for sharing. I am "thrifty" too so I look forward to reading your money saving tips
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:06 PM   #4
coastgirl
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metro West View Post
Good start...keep updating.
I *wish* I had something to update! Mostly poking around, trying to wait patiently. Got a good restaurant recommendation today, does that count??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nancy for Disney View Post
Great start. Thanks for sharing. I am "thrifty" too so I look forward to reading your money saving tips
Most of my good tips are from here--but always glad to find a kindred spirit! Here's one: tell the kids 6 months ahead of time so they can save their allowance and not ask me for souvenier money. Let's see if the six months of hyper is worth it!
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JoAnne in NS
with dh, ds 12, and dd 10

1st trip May/June 06
Jan/Feb 07, same crew at CBR. DCL Magic Eastern Dec 07 CSR Sept 2009
Universal/WWoHP in Sunset Lakes villa Feb 2010 Same again Aug 2013 in Emerald Island villa

PTR/TR Without the Mouse Round 2
TR: First visit to Universal/SeaWorld Feb 2011
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Old 02-11-2013, 07:39 AM   #5
Metro West
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coastgirl View Post
I *wish* I had something to update! Mostly poking around, trying to wait patiently. Got a good restaurant recommendation today, does that count??
Which restaurant was recommended?
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Old 02-11-2013, 08:08 AM   #6
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I`ve bought one of those for this year....it`s in fuscia pink though......You`ll be able to see me from the air
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Good report so far.

I did enjoy the Olivanders video of your son.........I`ve never seen that as the queues have always been too long and my son is 19.....so no interest there. But like you we love the HP area

I love your description of being thrifty......my husband would love me to be thrifty....but I tell him being thrifty is not one of my gifts

But it sounds like a fun trip....look forward to updates
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Old 02-14-2013, 10:19 AM   #7
HarleyGirl514
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coastgirl View Post
I *wish* I had something to update! Mostly poking around, trying to wait patiently. Got a good restaurant recommendation today, does that count??



Most of my good tips are from here--but always glad to find a kindred spirit! Here's one: tell the kids 6 months ahead of time so they can save their allowance and not ask me for souvenier money. Let's see if the six months of hyper is worth it!
Haha! I thought I was the only one who did this! We are going in June and told the kids this weekend so they could start saving for their spending money! We've got a couple bdays, plus Valentine's day today before the trip-that's some good cash from the Grandmas for the trip!!
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Old 02-14-2013, 12:41 PM   #8
coastgirl
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Haha! I thought I was the only one who did this! We are going in June and told the kids this weekend so they could start saving for their spending money! We've got a couple bdays, plus Valentine's day today before the trip-that's some good cash from the Grandmas for the trip!!
HarleyGirl, we are so clever! Teaching them an important life lesson, too! (Not being cheap, not at all... )
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JoAnne in NS
with dh, ds 12, and dd 10

1st trip May/June 06
Jan/Feb 07, same crew at CBR. DCL Magic Eastern Dec 07 CSR Sept 2009
Universal/WWoHP in Sunset Lakes villa Feb 2010 Same again Aug 2013 in Emerald Island villa

PTR/TR Without the Mouse Round 2
TR: First visit to Universal/SeaWorld Feb 2011
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Old 02-26-2013, 08:26 AM   #9
coastgirl
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Just looking for my last set of planning docs and came across some pics I can't help sharing. This is a screenshot of the letter I gave the kids before our last trip. We told them the night before we left. I made up envelopes with a wax seal too. (Can you say "Over the top" boys and girls?)



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



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



Ok, back to your regularly scheduled programming...
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JoAnne in NS
with dh, ds 12, and dd 10

1st trip May/June 06
Jan/Feb 07, same crew at CBR. DCL Magic Eastern Dec 07 CSR Sept 2009
Universal/WWoHP in Sunset Lakes villa Feb 2010 Same again Aug 2013 in Emerald Island villa

PTR/TR Without the Mouse Round 2
TR: First visit to Universal/SeaWorld Feb 2011
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Old 02-26-2013, 08:46 AM   #10
HarleyGirl514
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coastgirl View Post
Just looking for my last set of planning docs and came across some pics I can't help sharing. This is a screenshot of the letter I gave the kids before our last trip. We told them the night before we left. I made up envelopes with a wax seal too. (Can you say "Over the top" boys and girls?)



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



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



Ok, back to your regularly scheduled programming...
I don't think you're over the top at all! That's because I did the same thing... You should have seen the commotion in my house when my five kiddos opened their letters!! All except the littlest two, who can't read... Hahaha! But they got the idea really quick! I love your shirts, too! Your kiddos are so cute!!
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Old 07-28-2013, 08:55 AM   #11
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This looks like a great start to your trip! Can't wait to read more.

I love that you have so much time and can be laid back. One day I'll manage that.
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Old 08-01-2013, 08:01 AM   #12
coastgirl
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OMG! Single digit dance!

Hedwig is almost there. It crept up on me, it seems like we’ve been waiting forever, and it wasn’t that long ago I was excited about the double digit dance. I looked at the countdown on my phone, it says “9 days”. I thought it said “93”, which seems more likely!

Lists, lists and lists. I don’t even have my lists ready!! How did that happen? Our lives have been way too hectic lately, and I have lost valuable planning time, which is too bad, because I enjoy it. Ds turns 13 on Saturday and I have a minecraft cake to decorate, among other things. I haven’t even finished the t-shirts, I got halfway through and haven’t had time to finish. Yesterday I left work at 3:45 and other than driving, didn’t sit down til 11:00. (Mom’s taxi…meeting…hamburger on the go for supper...vet…b’day present and grocery shopping…dishes…cake making...more dishes. Where’s the time for planning and packing??)

But, OMG OMG, NEXT WEEK we’ll be there. On the other hand, we are going to be loving all that relaxed, fun family time—we need it! Hey, I can start looking at “10 day forecasts” now!!
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JoAnne in NS
with dh, ds 12, and dd 10

1st trip May/June 06
Jan/Feb 07, same crew at CBR. DCL Magic Eastern Dec 07 CSR Sept 2009
Universal/WWoHP in Sunset Lakes villa Feb 2010 Same again Aug 2013 in Emerald Island villa

PTR/TR Without the Mouse Round 2
TR: First visit to Universal/SeaWorld Feb 2011
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Old 08-01-2013, 08:43 AM   #13
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WOO HOO! Hurray for single digits!


ETA: Can't wait for your TR!!
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Old 08-01-2013, 12:20 PM   #14
coastgirl
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Thanks Hope. You used even more smilies than I did. :
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JoAnne in NS
with dh, ds 12, and dd 10

1st trip May/June 06
Jan/Feb 07, same crew at CBR. DCL Magic Eastern Dec 07 CSR Sept 2009
Universal/WWoHP in Sunset Lakes villa Feb 2010 Same again Aug 2013 in Emerald Island villa

PTR/TR Without the Mouse Round 2
TR: First visit to Universal/SeaWorld Feb 2011
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Old 08-01-2013, 01:55 PM   #15
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Looking forward to your reviews of the new Simpsons area. Hope you're planning to try a colossal doughnut from Lard Lad.
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