That one time we went to Universal… a first time family vacation pre trip report / trip report Completed

macraven

Proud Redhead
Moderator
Joined
Apr 21, 2003
Bethany, I’m still reading along and enjoy all the details you include in your trippie
 

Bethany10

Mouseketeer
Joined
Oct 17, 2016
Thanks Mac, I've got some rare downtime at the moment so I'm going to get back to it. this past week was rough!
 

Bethany10

Mouseketeer
Joined
Oct 17, 2016
Last day continued

Having well explored Islands, and after enjoying an OK lunch at Three Broomsticks we hopped on the Hogwarts Express for Kings Cross, and Studios. The train ride is fantastic, and a great way to get people to buy park to park tickets.

We stumbled out into the heat of the day, and almost immediately split up again. A wanted to stay in the Harry Potter areas, and C wanted to ride Men In Black. Both kids wanted to dial the phone that's in the booth outside the station. They understood how to dial, but the concept of picking the phone up off the receiver first was lost on both of them. Ahhhh children of the digital age. If you think about it, a cordless phone has no "hook" either. Once I got her to pick up the phone, THEN dial she got it to work. Then of course C had to do it.

That done, C and I took off for MIB while T and A stayed in Diagon Alley. We did single rider line which was a walk on, but C missed the pre-show queue. We were able to get on the same car which was nice. We came out to find both T and A in the gift shop waiting for us. A wanted to ride again, so I said ok leaving the bags with T. I realized half way in that I was still wearing my prescription sunglasses, I was worried that I wouldn't see anything but it wasn't too bad. Made for a fun photo. I also discovered that I'm too old to go on the æ rides back to back. I was wobbly when we got off the second time.

We hit the coke station next to MIB - air conditioning! and started walking toward the front of the park. Doc Brown was out (My kids- who?) parenting fail on my part. and we came across the end of a minion parade as we hit the character row area. C was VERY excited to see Gru, and I did offer to stand with him for a photo but he refused. This has gone on my list for next year, to deliberately catch a parade or two.

We continued to make our way to the front of the park, it was around 2:30 at this point and T was just done. Honestly all of us were. We had been back to the room by this time all week and not having anywhere to go was not a good situation. We didn't need to be at the airport until 5 or so, and we needed to kill some time in some AC ASAP.

I wanted to stop at the photo place on our way out of the park, I had purchased the photo pass package and had drilled into everyone to get their ride photos added each time they got off a coaster. I discovered that you had to print Volcano Bay photos IN that park, they weren't available in the other 2 parks for our "free" prints. This was a bummer as we had enjoyed our time in that park so much. I chose a nice one of our family taken that morning, before we looked like we'd been drug through a humid amusement park and when I told him we didn't want the poster he offered to give me another size instead. I opted for 2 5 x 7s as those are easier to frame. I don't know what our package was supposed to give us, but he kept hitting buttons and I walked out of there with more prints than I think I was supposed to.

Other than the VB stuff not being available, I liked having the package. I'm not going to pay full price for it by any means but they run sales frequently and I've revisited the photos often. If we meet one of my goals of doing more characters next year I'd like to have it for that.

Photos accomplished we headed out of the park in search of AC. I voted for Toothsome (milkshake) but T suggested Margaritaville. It was late enough in the afternoon that the lunch crowd had dispersed, but there was still a bit of a wait. It's a fun restaurant, and the store is neat to walk through as well.

Once we were seated, T and I agreed to split some nachos and got the kids some pretzel sticks. The kids had other ideas and A ordered spaghetti off the kids menu while C ordered a hamburger plain. Food didn't take long and WOW the nachos are HUGE. They're also really really good. I'm not one for Chilli on my nachos but these were excellent. Fresh chips, good beans lots of cheese and the chilli offered a nice bit of flavor. They can also serve 4 people easily. We didn't even make a dent. A inhaled her spaghetti, but C's burger which he did order plain came out with "stuff" on it. The offender, tomato and lettuce. I scraped it off, but he was hot and tired and refused to eat it. I was slightly irritated at the waitress for not checking on us as well. I've had them grab things the kids have ordered plain and make the kitchen redo it. This time she was nowhere to be found. C munched on the pretzels and fries, but it contributed to an already foul mood for him.

We killed as much time as possible in the restaurant, and meandered through the gift shop on the way out. My favorite item? the T-shirt that says I am the woman to blame. :laughing:

When we couldn't avoid it any longer and headed back out into the heat toward the bus. The ride back to the hotel was uneventful, and we headed straight for the car to shuffle things around from the park bag to the plane bag.

Once at the airport car return we were greeted by a porter with a rolling cart. We quickly filled it and T chatted with him all the way to the Southwest desk. Super nice guy and honestly, worth the tip to not have to haul our newly expanded suitcase collection in from the parking lot. It's also really nice that the car rental place is within walking distance of the main terminal - that's not true for us, you have to take a bus. With all your stuff.

We got checked in with Southwest, dropped the bags and hit airport security which was totally backed up. I swear we were in the slowest line as it felt like people were zooming past us. Then she refused to let all 4 of us go up together, I tried going up with T and she barked "get back" "only 2 at a time, you're crowding me" at me. ohhhhk then. After giving C the third degree we then stood in line to go through the metal detectors. Someone in front of us tried just letting his bag go through with all kinds of stuff in it. He got called out of line and basically stepped in front of me to talk with the TSA agent. T and the kids were already through the machine, but our stuff was still on the belt so I stayed with it. The guy plops his bag on TOP of one of our bins. TSA agent says do you have electronics in here? He starts pulling stuff out of the bag and dropping it in our bin. The TSA agent wasn't having any of it however, and starts scolding him, this isn't your bin. The guy doesn't care one bit and keeps dumping stuff. She finally grabs an empty bin, and moves everyone elses stuff out of the way while he's still dumping. He finally finishes, then walks through the machine again completely without care that he's just disrupted the entire line. I suspect he didn't care that he was dumping his stuff into our bin, that the agent would fish it out. The agent and I make sure his stuff is in his bin, and I go on through.

The security gauntlet threaded, T helps me get my shoes back on and we head for the train. This really is a pretty airport. We easily found our gate and enjoyed some down time before our uneventful flight home. it was so late once we made it through baggage claim and then getting our car loaded that I don't think anyone did anything but faceplant the bed once we got home. I know I did.

It was also wonderful to have a day to do laundry (the cups weren't all the way emptied when I shoved them back in to the suitcase, along with our swim stuff so everything was just … damp. The dog was rescued from the kennel and we spent a lazy day catching up before heading back into the workweek ahead.

next up: final thoughts and return trip plans.
 
  • Bethany10

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    Final thoughts

    While this wasn't the trip I was expecting to take, we all had a great time. Much relaxing was done, and I was truly able to let go of a lot of the pressures that had built up both while mom was sick and after her death. I was really worried about being able to do this, and I'm grateful that I was able to reset a bit while we were down there.

    I think the easiest way to do this is to break it down into sections.

    The parks What's not to love, I mean that's why we're all on here right? By far Volcano Bay blew me away, but I'm a beach girl so I could move into a chair by the wave pool and be happy for a week. I was on the fence about getting the 3 park ticket, but we certainly used the closeness of the hotel to our advantage during the week. I would not hesitate to do it this way again.

    The kids loved the thrill rides, C tried going back on Spiderman repeatedly on the last day, but they hadn't opened single rider and the queue was just too long. They both rode Hulk more than once, and even for a non thrill rider like me there was plenty to see and do. Seussland was just pure fun. I was also impressed with the cleanliness of the parks, we never saw trash cans overflowing, even the bathrooms were clean. Every staff member we dealt with was also fantastic, I guess I'm used to the teens working our local amusement park b/c these guys have their act together. Even just random conversations with staff members ended with enjoy your day or some variation therein. And of course, the Harry Potter areas are stunning. The level of detail is just incredible. I could go back just to spend time in those areas alone.

    The food
    We honestly didn't have a bad meal all week. We had some ok meals (the fast food courtyard in Citywalk, Three Broomsticks) and some amazing we have to come back here meals (Vivo) but even the Bayliner was good food, just repetitive. The only truly awful thing I tried was the Lemonaid at Three Broomsticks. Considering you're in a themepark, I'll take it. There are also so many restaurants we didn't try that have made it on the list of when we come back.

    The hotel

    For us, having the family suite worked really well. I loved the theming, but honestly what drew me in, and will keep us coming back, is the space we needed at the right price. The proximity to Volcano Bay was the icing on the cake. A found the music by the pool to be distracting, but I think we were all tuning it out by the end of the week. I look at it as a trade of space for express pass. For us, and for how our family works, having that extra space is vital. I know that's not true for everyone. C especially loved the pool area, and our float is packed away ready for a return down the lazy river.

    We will be back

    I mentioned a couple of times about another trip, and we've all agreed that we definitely want to come back next year. We already have the passes, and the frugal part of me says we paid all this money, lets USE them. There was so much we didn't get to do, and I'd really like the opportunity to rehab my knees and see if I can go longer and not be in as much pain as I was in while we were there. I'd also like to see what a trip would look like when all of us aren't in the fog of just having lost someone close to us. We got what we needed this trip, but I'd like to see if we can't do it again but with a faster pace. Plus, having the tickets already paid for means i've started looking at how much adding a throw away room at an EP hotel would cost.

    Overall, I'm so glad we went. I had planned the trip for so long, and so much went south right before we went, I just wasn't sure going into it. Thank you all who write Trip reports and give information here, they were incredibly helpful.


    I leave you with the shot of our family taken on the day we left. We certainly didn't look like this several hours later as we limped out of the park hot and exhausted.

    Here's to a return in 2020! We may even try and ride Hagrids if the line has dropped from it's 3 hour wait time by then.

    C is on the end, T in the red shirt, me in the blue and A in her Hufflepuff scarf. Which I got to hold while she did the thrill rides. Because you want to be wearing/holding a scarf in 3,000 degree humidity right?

    412914
     

    macraven

    Proud Redhead
    Moderator
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2003
    Such an awesome trip report!
    I liked how you gave us details on each day

    Hope you do get to return next year and get to use your ap’s
     

    schumigirl

    It's a bit of a roodie doodie word for lady parts
    Joined
    May 15, 2007
    Bethany, that was a lovely trip report. Really enjoyed reading it.

    It had to have been so tough with everything that had happened to you prior, but I`m glad you had such a lovely time.

    Glad to hear you`re planning to go back again...….and nice picture of the family...….
     
  • Tgrgrl

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 24, 2012
    I loved reading this report!!! Hope y’all make it back to Orlando soon !
     

    Dynamoliz

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 6, 2010
    Thank you for sharing your trip with us. I'm so glad it all worked out and everyone wants to go back. Now you need to get your knees taken care of and start planning your next adventure!
     

    Pumpkin1172

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 14, 2016
    Your trip report was great! I'm so glad you were able to just leave your worries behind and enjoy your time there. We spend so much time in the real world juggling so much, it's just nice to be able to get away to such an awesome park and just enjoy moments with our families. I look forward to another trip report when you return
     

    bobbie68

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 14, 2009
    Hi enjoyed your report and so glad you enjoyed the resort. It's one of our favorites. I like your final thoughts I like to include that too. It sounds like you have a lot to look forward to in 2020. It was nice to put faces to your story. Great pic! Thanks for sharing!

    Sometimes you need that reboot to get you back on track and Universal can do that!!!
     
  • Bethany10

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 17, 2016
    Awww, you guys thanks for the kind words. I've read so many trip reports and gleaned so much good information off of them I wanted to pay it forward. Of course, at the time I started writing it I had no idea the roller coaster we'd go on BEFORE we even hit Orlando. I'm really ready to go back now that we're in the heat of summer here in the midwest, the community pool is not living up to the bar Volcano Bay set.
     

    I-4Bound

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jun 26, 2011
    I really enjoyed reading your trip report! We were there pretty much the same time, and we stayed away from the parks on Hagrid's opening day. We did go on the second day it was open and waited 9 hours to ride it. It was incredible! You might think we are crazy for waiting that long, but we have annual passes and I really wanted to ride it before we went home. It was definitely a memorable experience, to say the least! Glad to hear you'll be making a return trip. I share your opinion on those strangely low chairs in the three Broomsticks. We actually commented on it on this trip and had a good laugh.
     

    Cynt

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 23, 2005
    Just what I needed to get through this boring afternoon at work. Thanks for your review. Hope your knee is feeling better. HUGS on the loss of your mom.
     

    DisneyDoesMyHair

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 26, 2016
    Thank you so much for sharing your trip report! It sounds like you had an amazing time despite all of the things leading up to your trip. I am truly sorry for your loss, but I am so happy that your family got to take a break from the sadness and enjoy a nice trip away.
     

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