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Old 09-29-2013, 01:09 PM   #1
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If Grandma's riding it can't be too bad... 12/20 Wrap up: Travelling home, souvenirs

Hi everyone!

We have just returned from a short but jam-packed trip to Orlando. We spent a day at Legoland and 3 (well 2 3/4 really) days at UO. We didn't have much down time, we didn't have much sleep but we did have LOTS OF FUN!

For such a short trip we really spent a long time prepping and planning. If you're interested in our movie days and planning you can read all about it in my long and rambling PTR. But for now, on to the trip report!

For this trip we opted not to stay onsite but instead at a partner hotel so we could take advantage of the free dining UO was offering during our dates. We arrived in Orlando on September 21 and spent 4 nights at the Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando. It was a nice room (though I never did get any pics) with modern updates and furnishings, it was clean and the mattresses were comfortable. However, we only had full size beds so that was a definite drawback. The pool looked lovely but we never had the opportunity to check it out- too much rain and not enough time.

Since we weren't staying onsite and we flew in we also rented a car. I found a great deal through Hotwire and loved the freedom of having the car. We relied solely on WDW transportation on our previous trip and I'll NEVER go that route again. This was much more relaxing and allowed us to take advantage of a few hours of downtime without spending it all on or waiting for a bus.

There were four of us along for this trip...


That's me, Hope, on the far left, next to DS14, Jace, followed by DD13, Kya and finally my mom, Bobbi on the far right. DH traveled to WDW with us in 2010 and HATED it. He opted not to do another theme park vacation with us so we invited my mom along instead.

(My dad also chose not to come along though he'd have been more than welcome. But since he'd never taken us to a theme park as kids, always expressing his disdain, I didn't think he would.)

A little more about each of us...


Kya is my funny, smart, kind-hearted 13yo daughter. She loves her friends, her family, animals, British TV and embraces her geeky side while still loving pop culture, make-up and fashion. I love that she doesn't feel the need to pigeon hole herself into typical teen stereotypes and just loves what she loves.



Jace on the other on the other hand fully embraces his geeky-gamer self (And I love that too! He knows who he is and is okay with that. ) He spends a lot of time on his own or chatting with friends online but he also loves spending time with his family. He's sarcastic, a bit awkward and has a very kind heart.



My mom, Bobbi, is still young at heart but her body doesn't always agree. She has vertigo and a back injury that prevented her from riding a lot of rides. (Hence the comment that led to my TR title- more on that later!) She would wistfully look at every roller coaster we passed but she didn't let it get her down- she enjoyed what she could and was just happy to be there, having fun with her grandkids. She is generous to a fault and loves her family fiercely and while she drives me crazy at times, when push comes to shove I know she loves us unconditionally and we could count on her for anything.



And that brings us to me, Hope. I'm a 38yo homeschooling mamma. I teach Adult Education a few nights a week and also substitute teach occasionally. My kids get their geeky genes from me- I warn you, don't start a conversation with me about Doctor Who, Buffy or Lord of the Rings. You may not escape! In addition to my love of The Doctor and Samwise I am also crazy in love with my hubby of 18 years. The above pic (the only one I have by myself from this trip) is one I had Kya snap with my phone so I could text him.

If you clicked on that link for my PTR you'll also notice that I ramble on and talk a lot. This TR will be longer than the one or two posts that are typical here on the darkside of the boards... that's for me as much as it is for you. This is my record of our trip and I want to remember every detail. If you're up for that then

Last edited by -Hope-; 12-20-2013 at 09:46 AM.
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Old 09-29-2013, 01:51 PM   #3
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Love the title! Can't wait to read more. Looks like you had a wonderful time,
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Old 09-29-2013, 01:54 PM   #4
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What, that pic wasn't for me? Phhhhsh! Robbie would have been no good there with you...but me?!! That woulda been some fun!

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Old 09-29-2013, 03:43 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Alysa View Post
Love the title! Can't wait to read more. Looks like you had a wonderful time,
Thanks, Alysa! We really did have a great time. This was the most drama-free vacation I've EVER had. But still plenty of fun so it won't be too boring to read about.

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What, that pic wasn't for me? Phhhhsh! Robbie would have been no good there with you...but me?!! That woulda been some fun!
Maybe sans heart hands it could be for you.
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Old 09-29-2013, 04:19 PM   #6
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I'm in!
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Old 09-29-2013, 06:41 PM   #7
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I'm in!
Yay!

My daughter is at a sleepover so I'll have a quiet house in the morning with time for a proper update. :
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:03 PM   #8
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I like long trip reports with pictures!
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Old 09-30-2013, 06:26 AM   #9
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Yhea!!! The trip report! I'm here for the fun!!! Love the intro pictures! Gotta love Simpson props!
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Old 09-30-2013, 06:27 AM   #10
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I like long trip reports with pictures!
Well, you've definitely come to the right place!
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Old 09-30-2013, 07:09 AM   #11
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Yeah
I love long trip reports and photos
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Old 09-30-2013, 07:49 AM   #12
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Saturday Septemeber 21: Travel Day

Hello again! Sorry if this travel day update is a bit boring (and picture lite); I just need to get it all down before I forget. Bear with me.

Our flight didn't leave from St. Louis until 3:30 PM so we didn't have to wake up extremely early Saturday morning, I think we were all up and moving by around 8:00 AM. We were packed except for things like toothbrushes and deodorant that we needed that morning so it was pretty smooth. We left our house at around 10:30, stopped to pick up my mom (who lives next door, btw) and were on the road by 10:45.

It's about a two hour drive to the airport and we also needed to drop the car at the sleep-n-park hotel we'd be staying at on the night we returned from Orlando. I discovered sleep-n-park on our trip to WDW in 2010 and love this! Since we live so far from the airport it's really nice when we have a late night arrival or early morning departure to be able to stay in a nearby hotel that also allows us to park our car while we're gone. And it costs about the same as leaving the car in a lot all week so it's jut a win-win.

We stopped for lunch at the absolute worst Burger King I've ever been to on our way to the airport. They messed up our order, didn't put in the change in the order until I went back up to complain, were out of salad and had horribly dirty bathrooms. But we just laughed it off because we were on our way to Orlando- these minor details were just blips on our radar at this point.

One funny thing that became a running theme for the week- we bumped into relatives at Burger King. Funny because they don't live in the town we stopped in either and were on their way somewhere else and even though they were coming from the opposite direction just happened to stop at the same place we did at the same time.

So, after a lackluster lunch it was on to the Quality Inn at the St. Louis airport. We checked the car in quickly and hopped a shuttle to the airport. We were only doing carry-on for this trip so we went straight to security. (Though I packed a collapsible duffle in case we needed more luggage for our trip home. Good call btw.) We made it to our gate at about 1:45 so we had some time to kill before our 3:30 flight. And then there were delays.

First the plane coming in was delayed. It was time to begin boarding and the plane still hadn't arrived at the gate. The announcements they were making kept reassuring us that the plane was on the way and that they'd make up for the lost time during the flight.

Finally, the plane arrived and we had the second of our third serendipitous moments of the week. A friend of mine who was coming home from WDW got off of the plane we were boarding! We stood and chatted for a few minutes as she told me all about her trip, the low crowds and all the magic. It was a such a great surprise.

We were finally on the plane and they were assuring us that we'd only be arriving in Atlanta about 15 minutes later than planned. This was good news because our layover was only about an hour and a half and we needed that time to eat dinner since we wouldn't get to Orlando until 9:00 and would still have to pick up our car and drive to the hotel. But then we sat there. And sat there. And sat some more.

It turns out the plane's weight wasn't balanced correctly and they eventually added sand bags to the cargo hold area to even things out. Sand bags. The marvel of modern technology, a jet liner, couldn't take off because we needed sandbags.

All this time I was keeping a close eye on Kya because she'd panicked the last time we flew and was nervous leading up to the trip. I don't know what changed but while she was still a bit nervous she did great. No tears. No hyperventilating. Just lots of nervous chatter.

We were finally in the air and arrived in Atlanta about 30 minutes before our connection. And we were in the terminal on the complete opposite side of the airport. We ran to the trains. We ran to our terminal. And of course our gate was at the far end of our terminal.

As we were running to our gate a guy in one of those carts saw us and took pity. He whipped around and drove us to our gate just as zone 2 (our zone) was boarding. Whew, we made it!

We didn't have time to eat but luckily we'd brought snacks so we no one was starving. The flight to Orlando from Atlanta was uneventful but we were lucky enough to fly at sunset and we watched the sun disappear behind the clouds. Kya, who was keeping herself busy to help her nerves, snapped this pic with my camera...


We got to Orlando at about 9:45 and since we didn't have any checked bags we went straight to pick up our rental car. I'd gone with Thrifty after finding a deal through Hotwire for a $101 for the length of our stay. The lines were empty that time of night and before long we were on our way in a Nissan Sentra.

After getting through the tolls it was a pretty easy drive to the Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando, which is located on International Drive. We spotted a Pizza Hut right by our hotel so we stopped to eat since we still hadn't had dinner. We finally checked into our hotel at around 11:00 and were settled into our room and sleeping by 11:45 with the alarm set to meet the Legoland shuttle the next morning!
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Old 09-30-2013, 07:56 AM   #13
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Yhea!!! The trip report! I'm here for the fun!!! Love the intro pictures! Gotta love Simpson props!
Hurray, Nicole is here! Love, love, LOVE Springfield USA. Second only to Hogsmeade/Hogwarts for me.

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Yeah
I love long trip reports and photos
Well, you picked the right trip report then.

I was lamenting to my hubby that I just didn't take that many pictures this time and he asked how many... 1842. Plus the pics on my phone.
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Old 10-01-2013, 09:39 AM   #14
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Sunday Sept 22: Legoland Part 1

A quick disclaimer before I start the fun part of the TR. I made a conscious decision NOT to focus on photography early on in this trip. I have a tendency to become so focused on capturing the moment that I end up missing the moment. It's there, in print but I'll often realize later that I was disconnected at the time it was happening. For this reason, plus the fact that it rained off and on (and there was a persistent drizzle/mist) I didn't wear my camera. I kept it in my bag and pulled it out when I really wanted a pic. Sometimes I just pulled out my phone. I still took A LOT of pictures but they aren't the quality I'd take if I were traveling on my own. My kids seemed to appreciate that I wasn't preoccupied with the camera and I'm happy with the memories I did manage to capture so all in all it was a good decision. But please don't judge my photography skills based on the pics you'll see here!

Anyway... on with the TR!




After a late and somewhat restless night (sharing a full size bed with my 14yo bed hog) we got up at about 6:45 to catch the Legoland shuttle. We had the car and could easily have driven to Winter Haven but the shuttle tickets are only $5 each. For four of us we couldn't have paid for gas and parking for that price so we opted to relax and let someone else do the driving.

We had snacks and coffee in the room and were out the door by 8:15. It's a good thing we left early because I had deleted Google Maps to make room for the iOS7 update and was relying on Apple Maps. Good grief what a disaster that is. It doesn't redirect you at all and since it was trying to get me to take a road that was next to the parking lot of our hotel but not accessible from that lot I started off with issues. Thankfully my mom still had google maps on her phone and we eventually got ourselves turned around and found the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue. We found the parking garage nearest the meeting point and got checked in.

The shuttle was huge- it was a bus similar to those used for ME- even though there were only 4 families riding and the other 3 were only 2 people each. The driver did comment that some people didn't show up. I'm guessing this is because park hours changed and the shuttle departure time didn't. We weren't going to make park opening and I'm sure some people chose to just drive themselves for this reason. I considered it but eventually decided that it's a small park and the 8 hours we had would be plenty.

It's about a 45 minute drive from Orlando to Winter Haven with not much to see along the way (except lots of farms and cows which is the scenery at home, lol). Finally we saw this...


After a brief pause for a picture...


...we walked through the entrance at about about 10:00 AM. Park opening was at 9:30 but I could see that crowds were light and the park was small. I'd studied the map and recognized things that were much closer together than they'd seemed on the map. In fact, I briefly wondered if we'd be busy until 6:00 PM when the shuttle would return.

As we walked in I noticed a sign that Island in the Sky was closed that day. I was a bit disappointed, this is a holdover ride from when the park was Cypress Gardens and is a giant, slowly rotating, circular platform that gives you a birds eye view of the park. It was supposed to be my best opportunity to just relax and take a few pics. Ah well, I just reminded myself that this trip wasn't about pictures.

We headed straight for the newly opened land, World of Chima. The only ride in this area (there are some play areas for younger kids as well) is the Quest for Chi. It was walk on despite being a newly opened, popular ride so I knew we'd done the right thing by taking the shuttle and not coming for rope drop.

I don't have pics of the ride because bags aren't allowed but it was FUN. We loaded into a boat with bench seating with room for 4 on each side. There are crank style water guns in front of the benches and we thought we'd be shooting targets in the ride. WRONG- we shot other boats and unsuspecting people just walking by the ride! There were World of Chima themed Lego builds throughout that shot more water at us (in addition to the other boats and the guns set up around the perimeter for those walking by to shoot back at as). This was FUN and we left pretty wet. But it was already hot and humid so we welcomed the relief.

At this point I noticed Jace squinting into the sun and asked him where his sunglasses were. He confessed to leaving them in our car in St. Louis so we stopped to buy him a pair at a kiosk. Not an expense I'd planned on but Florida without sunglasses would be miserable!

We moved on to the Land of Adventure only to find the dark ride, Merlin's Challenge, was temporarily down. We agreed to return later instead of waiting and kept moving. Kya had been toying with the idea of trying out some of the small coasters at LL so we hopped in line for the Dragon Challenge. Jace was in line at first but decided not to ride so he and my mom went to look at some of the builds in the area. As we moved closer to the front of the line Kya grew more and more nervous. When we reached the chicken exit she bailed. Later she told me that she thinks the anticipation is what prevents her from riding. It was about a 15 minute wait at Dragon Challenge and if we'd been able to just walk on she thinks she'd have ridden.

We caught up with my mom and Jace near the exit (where they thought we'd be coming out). Jace was feeling tired and hungry- it had been a long day already even though we'd only been in the park for about half an hour. We had some snacks in our bag so we stopped at a picnic table to rest, use the restroom and have a quick bite to eat.

After we were feeling more energetic we moved on and came to the Safari Trek. It was here that I first noticed the area with Lego tables at each ride with signs saying children could play while their parents held their place in line. I thought this was a really cool feature for a park geared toward young children.

The Safari was a cute, although short, ride in jeeps on a track through a Lego jungle...




There were life size builds of giraffes, elephants, zebras, hippos and more. The jeeps moved a bit fast to really take good pics and the ride was over quickly. I think this is due to the park being geared toward small children with short attention spans.

From here we moved on to Lego City. We noticed that the Big Test Live Show was set to begin in about 45 minutes. Our small breakfast and even smaller snack wasn't really cutting it so we decided to have lunch and then head back to the show. We walked through Lego City, noticing the things we really wanted to come back and do and settled on lunch at The Fried Chicken Company.

It had a cute Lego 50s diner theme...


It was all fried chicken with varying sides. We noticed a family meal with an 8 piece bucket, four fries and four drinks for $29.99. It was a great deal though they didn't allow substitutions for sides. I ordered an extra side of coleslaw and gave Jace my fries (though I may have had a few).




This chicken was GOOD. The seasoning was perfect, it was crispy on the outside, juicy inside. Honestly, it was some of the best chicken I've ever had. I was impressed that this was theme park food.

It was about 11:30 at this point and we still had a full day ahead. Up next, exploring Lego City!
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Old 10-01-2013, 09:42 AM   #15
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Following along!
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