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Old 06-23-2013, 09:24 AM   #136
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Originally Posted by Nancy for Disney View Post
Love the HP "Ron/ Hermione analogy" and even more glad for you that trip is going to work out with freebies too!
Haha, glad you liked that. And thanks! I'm pretty relieved because having to tell my kids we weren't going was NOT something I wanted to do.
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Old 06-23-2013, 10:38 AM   #137
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That's so sucky about losing your funding. I'm so sorry. Things seem to be difficult for so many people like that lately.
But great that you got free dining and that the trip is still on! So happy to have you back!
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Old 06-23-2013, 11:50 AM   #138
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That's so sucky about losing your funding. I'm so sorry. Things seem to be difficult for so many people like that lately.
But great that you got free dining and that the trip is still on! So happy to have you back!
It is pretty sucky, especially for the students.

I'm pretty excited about free dining and pouring over menus has been a great distraction from the job stuff.
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Old 06-24-2013, 07:52 PM   #139
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Transportation- advice welcome!

Today was my first "official" day of being unemployed (by which I mean if our program was still up and running, I'd have worked today). So, I tried to keep myself busy and of COURSE that meant trip planning!

I actually have lots of updates to give you guys about food, itinerary, etc. but for today I'm focusing on transportation in Florida because it's one of the few things that's still up in the air for us...

We're flying into Orlando and since this is the darkside we have to figure out how we're getting around once we arrive. That's not a criticism, just a statement of fact. I'm fully aware that ME and buses aren't free- they're inclusive and that's different (largely because you're paying for them even if you choose not to use them). Again, not a criticism, just an observation of the differences between the parks.

Anyway, I have a thread around here somewhere (I think it got moved to Orlando area hotels boards) about the I-Ride trolleys. The ever helpful, darkside experts were most patient. However, I'm still undecided if that's really the way to go. So, let me run down the options for you...

I should note, first of all, that airport to hotel will be either cabs or rental car, if we decide to get one. Cabs are cheaper than shuttles. And I'm not doing a 2 hour city bus ride at 9:00 PM after traveling all day. Not gonna happen.

I also haven't included info for how we'll get to Legoland because that isn't a factor in the decision. We have shuttle tickets, how we get to that shuttle will depend on how we get everywhere else.

Option 1: Exclusively using cabs ($225 including tips)
So, this is pretty straight forward. I got the estimates using the farefinders macraven shared with me on the trolley thread. The price includes transportation from and to the airport as well as to and from the parks each day.

Advantages:
  • easy peasy, no driving in busy traffic for me
  • dropped off close park entrance
  • no waiting at the end of a long day when we're all tired

Disadvantage:
  • no way to get around for things like a quick trip to the store without spending more $$
  • if we decided to leave the park mid-day and return later this would also mean more $$
  • these unexpected expenses could add up quickly!
  • taking a cab to the airport means not leaving directly from the parks but leaving our bags at the front desk and then leaving the parks early enough to get our bags before heading to the airport (and again, this diversion is going to add to the above estimate)

Option 2: Cab/trolley mix ($146 including tips)
This entails cabs from and to the airport, using the I-Ride trolleys for everything else.

Advantages:
  • fairly simple, still no driving through traffic for me
  • CHEAP! This is really the most (only?) appealing thing about this option
  • The passes for the trolley would give us unlimited use during the time we're there so no unexpected expenses for extra trips

Disadvantages:
  • The trolley does not drop us at the gate. In fact it's about a 10 minute walk to the parking structure from the nearest stop.
  • I'm concerned that at the end of a long day we'll be tempted to just hop in a cab instead of walking to the stop. If we do this too often we haven't saved much.
  • We are not morning people. We might end up taking a cab in the AM as well simply because we're already running late for the parks.
  • The nearest stop to our hotel is a bit of a walk as well (5-10 minutes). My kids are going to be whining and my mom is going to be tired before we even get to the parks!
  • I've read some reports of long waits for trolleys in the off season (despite the schedules posted)
  • Just as in option 1, taking a cab to the airport means not leaving directly from the parks but leaving our bags at the front desk and then leaving the parks early enough to get our bags before heading to the airport (and again, this diversion is going to add to the above estimate)

Btw, I've done the math and taking cabs several times if we end up hating the trolley will cost the same $225 as exclusively using cabs. This includes getting to the LL shuttle and would also cover any extra trips we may end up taking (for groceries, mid-day breaks, etc.)

Option 3: Cabs/city buses ($175 including tips)
Similar to above with taking cabs from and to the airport but then instead of buying trolley passes we'd buy the more expensive but still relatively cheap bus passes.

Advantages:
  • Again, fairly simple, still no driving through traffic for me
  • My understanding is that the stop is within UO, not across the street or anything so no extra walking.
  • Still pretty cheap compared to some other options.
  • Again, the bus passes would give us unlimited use during the time we're there so no unexpected expenses for extra trips

Disadvantages:
  • We'd still have to be ready and out the door early, just as with the trolleys
  • There are bus transfers involved which adds to the amount of time spent traveling- about 40 minutes total (which is pretty similar to WDW bus transportation IME).
  • Again, we can't leave directly from the parks. This subtracts from park time on our last day and adds to the expense of the final cab ride.

Option 4: Rental car ($225 including gas and parking fees)
Again, this is pretty straight forward. Getting a rental car upon arrival and returning it when we leave.

Advantages:
  • No worries about extra trips, etc. We have the car when we need it.
  • We can leave straight from the parks on our last day. Just put our bags in the trunk and we're ready to eek out as much park fun as possible until we absolutely HAVE to leave.
  • No waiting for trolleys, cab drivers, etc. Just go when we want to.

Disadvantages:
  • Traffic- we live in a small town and while I CAN drive in heavy traffic I don't like it. And my mom is a bit dramatic and makes things worse.
  • Too many horror stories of cars not being ready. Our flight will arrive at 9:00 PM IF neither of our flights (we have a connection) are delayed. I know it's a slim chance but I don't want to be waiting for our car/fighting with the rental place when I'm tired and just want to sleep.

So, that's it. After typing that all out with the advantages/disadvantages I think I'm leaning toward the rental car but would still like some feedback. Are there advantages/disadvantages to these scenarios I'm overlooking? Do any of the advantages make everything else in that scenario completely worth it in your opinion? Any of the disadvantages make everything else in that scenario completely NOT worth it?

Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated!
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Old 06-24-2013, 09:34 PM   #140
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don't laugh but there is another scenario to add to your list of transportation needs.


you could bring your luggage with you to the park on the last day before your flight leaves.


you can take the luggage to guest services or lost and found and ask that they hold them for you.

you fill out a form and list what is being held there.
you will have to show an id to do this.

when you are ready to leave, pick up your luggage then.


a cab from the parks could cost you $35 + gratuity.
or if you get a town car from the hotel, it would be $50.

i know it sounds crazy to take your luggage with you on the last park day at the darkside, but it would save you steps in backtracking back to your hotel.


yes, others have down this before.
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Old 06-24-2013, 10:10 PM   #141
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That's really good to know! I had wondered about that briefly but kind of forgot while I was running all those other scenarios.

Thank you!
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Old 06-25-2013, 10:06 AM   #142
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Let's talk about dining...

So, I'm still on the fence with the transportation issue. It's not something that has to be decided right now so I guess I'm just going to see how the budget looks when everything else is taken care of. Though if you know me at all you'll know that I don't like ambiguity so it's really difficult for me not to make that decision and just be done with it- even if that meant changing my mind later. At any rate, I'd still appreciate feedback and opinions if you have them...

Which brings me to a couple of questions I have concerning our TS meals. We have two TS meals included with our free dining plan and I've spent some time pouring over menus as well as reading the entire dining thread on the UO board.

Originally I'd really wanted to eat at Mythos based mainly upon the theming but the menu just didn't appeal to me. Well, it appealed to me but my kids aren't adventurous eaters and I just didn't think there was enough for them to have choices on the menu- I don't want them to be forced to get a burger or pizza when they will get those at our CS meals! So, for our meal at IOA I settled on Confisco's Grill.

I already made the ressie for this meal on open table. I know UO usually doesn't require ADRs this far out but no one really knows how this new dining plan will affect that, especially since there aren't a ton of choices included in the plan. Better safe than sorry I think. Plus, I'm just a planner. It's in my nature to do these things months in advance. The fact that I've waited this long for ADRs is a great exercise in restraint (and has nothing to do with the fact that open table wouldn't let me make them before this week, ahem).

So, we'll be having lunch at Confisco's on our last day as we're leaving the park. We have a 2 PM ressie and I want to be on our way no later than 4:15. Anyone with experience think we'll need more time for our meal? I thought since it won't be the height of lunch hour 2 hours should be plenty of time (with some to spare, hopefully). I could push it back to 1:30 I suppose but I really wanted it as late as possible. We'll be getting back to St. Louis really late after a layover in Atlanta and I wanted us to have a nice, big meal right before we travel. I also figured we might have some leftovers to take with us for the plane. If we finish early we'll just shop a bit around the Port of Entry and City Walk. And I'd be happy with being on the road any time around 4:00, 4:15 is just the absolute latest I'm comfortable with. Thoughts, opinions? Leave it at 2:00 or push back to 1:30?

Our other TS meal will be on our day at the Studios. After some feedback on the dining thread I settled on Finnegan's. Great reviews and the menu looks great with plenty of variety for even my picky eaters. I haven't made this ADR yet though because I'm undecided about the time. Lunch could be a good opportunity to cool down but it could also interfere with our touring. My kids are not thrill ride seekers and a lot of our time on our day at the Studios is going to be spent catching the shows. HOWEVER, I also don't want to wait too late and be eating during the Cinematic Spectacular. (Will they still be doing that in September??) I'm pretty flexible with what time we'll eat, we can always use our snack credits and I'll probably also throw some granola bars in bag if we really need a pick-me-up. Any suggestions for the best time to eat lunch at the Studios and still maximize our show experience? If it helps I'll include a list of things we want to see/do on that day:

Must Do/See:
  • The Simpsons
  • MIB
  • Transformers
  • Beetlejuice
  • T2 3D- Is this still open? DS is a huge fan and it's still on the UO website but I thought I'd read it was ending??
  • Despicable Me
  • Cinematic Spectacular

Really want to do/see:
  • Horror Make-up Show
  • ET
  • Shrek 4D

If we have time:
  • Disaster (Should this be a higher priority? I wasn't sure if it was a must do or not- can't remember all of the reviews I've read for all the rides and shows at this point, lol.)
  • Twister
  • Blues Brothers (Though my mom may really want to see this since she's a huge SNL fan, especially from this era.)
  • Lucy (This could change in priority or be left off completely. My kids haven't seen any of the old shows yet but will before we go. DD loves this type of humor so I think she may end up moving this up in priority.)

So, with that list when would those with experience plan to eat a TS meal? Also, even though this is really a post about dining I might as well ask since I posted the list... is that doable on September 24 (a Tuesday)? We're offsite so no Express Pass.

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Old 06-25-2013, 10:16 AM   #143
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I'm sorry about it being your first day off work yesterday.
I vote car rental. Cabs take too long and I just like being able to go where I want, when I want. Just don't let your mum talk while you drive.
I've never been to Universal so I can't help you out with your dining questions but I love your ride plans! The only thing I want to do is have lunch at the three broomsticks. What is the Cinematic Spectacular?
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Old 06-25-2013, 03:46 PM   #144
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I'm sorry about it being your first day off work yesterday.
I vote car rental. Cabs take too long and I just like being able to go where I want, when I want. Just don't let your mum talk while you drive.
I've never been to Universal so I can't help you out with your dining questions but I love your ride plans! The only thing I want to do is have lunch at the three broomsticks. What is the Cinematic Spectacular?
Thanks, Alysa!

I'm definitely leaning toward car rental. I have a number in mind that is the absolute top of our budget and as long as it doesn't put us over that (even by a few dollars, I'm holding my ground! ) then we'll do a car. The cab/bus combo is my second choice- though I went back and read the wrap up of my TR from 2010 and in it I said I'd NEVER do Orlando without a car again so maybe I should just look at something else to trim...

My mom will be okay, I just have to tell her she's stressing me out. She gets pouty and put out when I say those kinds of things but she'll get over it.

We'll definitely be eating at 3 Broomsticks! Not only is it a must just because we HP but also because I've heard so many great things about the food. It's not on the DP so we'll have pay OOP there for lunch or dinner on our first day.

The Cinematic Spectacular is UO answer to Wishes/MSEP (or maybe Illuminations is a better example but I haven't actually seen Illuminations so I'm not sure). That's a poor description and I know some darksiders don't like it when you compare things to WDW but it's the easiest way for me to understand it. I'm sure that will change when I've been there and done it myself but for now that's how I think of it. :ducking:

Anyway, it's fireworks, musical score, narration by Morgan Freeman, all while clips from classic Universal films play on waterfall screens over the lagoon. I just don't want to miss it- we aren't really fireworks people but combined with the nostalgic movies I think it sounds amazing!

Looking at the park hours for today and the schedule for the CS I think it will be 15 minutes before park closing, which is 7 PM on our US days. So, CS will begin at 6:45. I need to do my research and see if we need to see how far in advance we need to find spots and then I can decide when to make our TS ressie.
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Old 06-25-2013, 07:48 PM   #145
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The fireworks show sound awesome - I'll have to add it to my list. I love Morgan Freeman!!
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Old 06-25-2013, 08:05 PM   #146
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despicable me don't miss it!
the minionions is a must to see........


blues brothers show is done outdoors near Finnegans.
it will take up about 20 minutes of your time.
longer if you join in with them on the congo dance in that area.
if you are there to see/listen to it, do so.
if you are not in that area at the time, not a big deal.
if you like street shows, then you would like this.
especially if you are fond of the Blues Brother movies.


confisco grille is good.
i eat there solo and never have a problem with time.

they are good on not scheduling ressies on top of each other.

i was seated 10 minutes prior to my afternoon ressie last year.

service is quick.
wait staff will give you a menu soon after you are seated.
drinks will be brought immediately as you are looking through the menu.

food will be brought out together for your group without a prolong wait.


i really don't think it will take you 2 hours there.
it's not a large menu so whatever you order can be done without long waits.

pizza is the only thing that could take more time.
their food is not made in advance.
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Old 06-25-2013, 08:09 PM   #147
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Mythos has its followers.
i have eaten there many times but now only hit it for appetizers.

nothing wrong with the food, just that i have run through their menu and waiting for it to change.

i'm not a fan of couscous and i see that a lot on the menu.

many first time park goers do Mythos.
the ambiance inside the place, and the view of the water is amazing.


Finnegans has a fuller menu that will please most in your group.
it is a lively place and not quiet like Mythos is.

refils on soda, water are prompt.
many times you don't have to request it, they just show up and do it for you.

i eat about 3 times each visit at finnegans.
sometimes 5 times depending on hhn.....
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Old 06-25-2013, 08:45 PM   #148
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go to the section that has the benches around the lagoon over by Mel's food place.

most peeps start sitting on the benches around 7 if the cinema show is at 8.

you will a full view of 2 screens in that area.

and you will be able to see the full effect of the fireworks that comes from the middle of both sides of the lagoon, and the fireworks from the buildings on your left side.


i like the show.
the old movies are in parts with the narration of Morgan.


if you are staking out the benches, don't be surprised if peeps will come and stand in front of those benches and lean against the rail at 7:55.........
you would need to stand for the show then more than likely.

yea, that happened to me last year and they had their umbrellas open which really blocked my view.
the show doesn't stop due to light rain.

it could be about 4 feet of open space between the railings to the benches so i wasn't taken back when it happened.

i saw the show 4 nights and will see it again in the fall.

you can see the films at most places around the lagoon.
in the new york central park section, many stand there.
i don't care for that area as you can't see the total effect of the fireworks.
trees are kind of tall there.

if you like clips of old movie, love Morgan, then you will enjoy this show.

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Old 06-25-2013, 09:08 PM   #149
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macraven!!!


Thank you SO MUCH for all of that info!! Seriously, you are SO helpful! My plans are really coming together and it's largely thanks to you, both directly and indirectly as I scour old threads where you've patiently answered the questions of other newbies. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!
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Old 06-25-2013, 09:35 PM   #150
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thank you.


i know what it is like to venture to a new type of vacation with kids.
i like to share what i have been through so you can avoid the mistakes a newbie can make.

vacations are expensive and we all want to get the most out of our trips.

it only takes my time to write out my experiences and answer questions.

i know some peeps will say you only need 30 minutes before finding a place around the lagoon for the cinematic spectacular show.

well, if you only have one more person with you, that works fine.
2 peeps can find a place to squeeze in about anywhere around the lagoon.
you have 5 in your group and you want to have the best place you all can fit in.

believe me, i found the section near Mels, the bench area at the end of the lagoon the better view.

if you are up front, you can see the fire go across the water.
you can see the waterfall over the film at times and the nice effect it makes.

the area of Lombards that is closed off to all except the peeps that bought the dinner/show ticket, do have a very nice view there too.
that package is not worth it. there are other places with an awesome view too.
you are allowed to the patio anytime after 7.
the ones that go at 7 take the tables/chairs on the patio that has the good view.
come later and you'll be standing on that patio/landing section unless staff brings out more chairs.



the show is on certain nights.
it was blocked out on some nights i was there last october. (hhn)
i only got to see it 4 times, 2 of those times without the rain.

2 of the nights were packed, the 2 nights it rained, small crowd.

if the park crowd is light the day you are there, i doubt the evening show will be crowded.

i don't know how your plans are for leaving the park that night after the show.
if you rent a car, it will take time for you to get out of the garage.
if you do the taxi, not a long wait.
if you do the bus to itrolley route, depends on the timing.

in september, tuesday are not a high crowd day.
it could be less than moderate.
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