Welcome to my blog. I write mostly about travel and in particular my love of Disney, with a few tidbits such as musings about movies or theater thrown in for good measure. I have stories dating all the way back to 1997 so be sure to explore! I don't post regularly, so if you want updates be sure to join and follow this blog (links below). Feel free to share, and if you want you can also click the Facebook or Twitter links below. You can also follow me on twitter. And be sure to comment letting me know what you think!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Trip to Orlando, August 2010 - Intro and Day 1

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Well over a year ago I showed my 2 daughters (Natalie and Charlotte) a press release announcement from Universal Orlando about a proposed addition to their Islands of Adventure theme park - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWoHP). The girls and I are all Harry Potter fans - the girls more so than me - and we have all read all of the books and seen all of the movies. We even went to midnight "release parties" of the final three books. So, when the press announcements were made for WWoHP there was, needless to there was a good deal of excitement in our house about the prospects of visiting the park.

Once the proposed opening dates were announced for the park I suggested that we go in the summer when the kids were out of school. Knowing that more than 2 days at Universal are more than enough we thought it would make sense to combine it with a trip to Walt Disney World (WDW). My wife Andie suggested that the girls would have more fun if they each had a friend along for the trip so we told them to both invite somebody to come. Once we decided on this, Andie (not a big theme park fan) decided to beg out of the trip, so it was going to be me and four teen-agers. I have to admit I was a bit trepidatious about this prospect but as you will see my concerns were unfounded.

As the date for the trip approached we finalized plans. I am a member of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and my home resort is the Boardwalk Villas (BV). I booked us in a 2 bedroom villa with a Boardwalk view for 6 nights, arriving on Sunday and leaving on Saturday. Our flight - JetBlue - left La Guardia at about 7:00 AM with a 7:30 PM departure from Orlando. I purchased 3-day park hopper passes for WDW and 2-day multi-park passes for Universal for all of use using a site called "Tickets at Work" that I was able to connect to through my work benefits site. The passes were discounted ($265 for the WDW passes and $139 for the Universal), but more importantly each had additional days bringing the WDW passes to 5 days and the Universal passes to 4 (although we only intended to go to Universal for 2 days anyway).

I looked into renting a car but the car rental costs were unbelievable - about $500 before taxes and fees. Instead I signed us up for the Disney Magical Express service (DMX) which would get us to our hotel, and I figured we would not need a car while at WDW. The only time we'd need a car was to get to Universal. I had heard about the Mears shuttle previously, but someone else who had recently organized a trip to Orlando for a large group recommended Lincs. I called Lincs and decided to go with them, mostly because their schedule was a bit more flexible. I figured I'd arrange to use them the first time we went to Universal and if they didn't work out we could use Mears the second time.

The only other real issue with not having a car was that we could not go grocery shopping. One of the benefits of stating at DVC - or any timeshare property for the matter - is that you have a full kitchen and can prepare some of your food in your room. This can save a lot of money, plus it means you end up eating at least a bit healthier. Even if all you do is eat breakfast in your room it's such a treat to be able to do it at your leisure and not have to worry about getting up and getting dressed first. Anyway, I poked around online a bit and found a site called where I could order groceries online and have them delivered. Very convenient, although the choices were a bit limited.

I had also made some dining reservations - but only three - two in Epcot at the World Showcase (WS) and one at Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS - although Charlotte insisted in referring to it as MGM).

Now, I'm a bit of a planner. In fact, half of the fun for any trip (especially a WDW trip) for me is in the planning. Sometimes I worry that others in my party will think I'm planning too much - more about that later. Still, my approach is simple - the idea behind having a plan is mostly so that you don't waste a lot of time deciding what to do. You come up with a plan that makes sense and then, once you get there, you see how it goes. If the plan continues to make sense, go with it. If not, abandon it. Also, I told the girls that they need not feel they had to stick with me the whole time. If they found something they wanted to do on their own - go for it. I did want the younger girls to stay in the same park with me, but they did not have to stick with me if they didn't want to.

OK, so, here is the schedule I came up with for our visit:

Sunday: Epcot. Dinner reservation at the San Angel Inn at the Mexico Pavillion, 7:30. This way we would be nearby the hotel when we need to check in and get our groceries.
Monday: DHS in the morning. Extra Magic Hours (EMS) at DHS means we can get in early at 8:00. 12:25 reservation at the 50's Prime Time Cafe (PTC). Evening at the Magic Kingdom (MK). I always think that MK at night is the best way to see it for the first time.
Tuesday: Universal. Dinner somewhere on CityWalk.
Wednesday: MK in the morning. Dinner at T-Rex in Downtown Disney (DD). Evening at DHS which has EMS until 10:00.
Thursday: Universal. Dinner somewhere in Citywalk.
Friday: Disney's Animal Kingdom (AK) in the morning. MK at night - EMS hours means MK is open until 3:00AM.
Saturday: Epcot - lunch reservation at Merrakesh in the Morocco pavillion.

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