The Not So Good ….

So if you didn’t read the previous post this is the other side of the coin to our visit to Florida. The other post was mostly the good stuff. This one is the not so good stuff that happened.

Our first really bad experience was the line for the rental car at Budget. I mean the rest of the trip went pretty well. We got up in time, we left the house in time (if you know us this is a flippin’ miracle) and we got to the airport in time. We made it through security okay. We practically boarded as soon as we got to the gate. The kids were good on the flight. I was so proud of them. We got our luggage without incident or waiting too long. Then BAM … or should I say SCREECH! The line in front of Budget was ridiculous. The day we landed was the warmest the whole time we were there. Waiting on the car really ate into our time there that day. We spent three hours waiting for our car at the airport! It was awful. At least we got the car seats and second driver for free with the purchase of some insurance.

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The line in front of Budget was so long you couldn’t see the counter.

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The line in front of Hertz was barely a line.

Once we got to our time share we wanted to spend what little time we had left of the day at the pool. I messed up as to which pool to go to though. My in-laws were checking us in and I saw one pool/splash area with a pirate theme. When we changed to our swimsuits my mother-in-law wanted to go to another pool with a kiddie pirate ship. It just look like a ship to climb on in the pool from where we were standing. So we went to the pool I suggested. The kids were not real big fans of the splash area so we went into the actual pool next to it. They had a slide but my son was too small to go on it. So we didn’t let either one on it. When we started to head back I was sorry we didn’t visit the pirate ship. It had smaller slides under it he could have enjoyed. It never got warm enough again on a day we were not at a theme park. So we never got to enjoy it and I felt bad about that.

Our first day of theme parks was at Universal. We went to Islands of Adventure to see Grinchmas and all the Dr. Seuss stuff. We left our stroller in stroller parking several times without incident. We ended up wandering a good ways away from the umbrella strollers at one time. The family went on a carousel while I went to retrieve strollers. We brought two “cheap” umbrella strollers because they are easier to fold and transport than big expensive strollers. Also if they got messed up, lost or stolen, then it was no big deal, right? Well I took off with the two strollers all by myself. It was hard to steer two strollers but when I finally got to my destination to wait on everybody to get off the carousel I thought how strange it was nobody stopped me to ask why I had two strollers and no kids. We stayed quite a while and went on the Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios. We ate a quick dinner and then decided to see the Shrek movie and then go home. A parade was about to start and the stroller parking was quite full. The employee at Shrek told us to park our strollers alongside the building. When we came back out the parade was done and a lot of people were gone. The park was getting close to closing and we had my son’s stroller with my mother-in-laws jacket in it. My daughter’s stroller was gone! A different employee was outside. My husband told her what happened. The next thing I know he is walking up and down the “street.” I asked the employee why my husband and another employee kept looking for what was probably a stolen stroller. She said that people are not supposed to park strollers where we had ours and another employee might have moved it. We didn’t find it and my husband filled out a report. The security guard actually thanked him for not throwing a huge fit. The guard said most people throw a big fit.

We had a day at the time share because it rained. Then we had a Day at Epcot and Magic Kingdom before we came back to Universal with my husband’s Aunt Vicki and cousin Matt. We actually saw a stroller at Epcot that looked exactly like the one we lost except it had a bit more wear and tear on it. My husband took a picture just for reference. We went to Lost and Found at Universal the next time we went and showed it to them. They did not have it. My husband went to customer service and talked to them as well. They did not have it either. My husband asked nicely if there was anything they could do like give us some Fast Passes. The gave us two Fast Passes per person. Aunt Vicki and Matt weren’t there yet. They met us later, so we didn’t have Fast Passes for them. We had already bought Baby Girl a nice pink princess stroller with a visor at a CVS near the time share. We had to have something. So she was actually happy to get rid of the old stroller. The new stroller was about ten dollars more than the lost one. My husband asked me what we would have done if they had actually found the old one. I told him we would have asked that they watch Baby Boy’s stroller while he used her old one. A lady at Epcot a few days before had stepped on one of the wheels making it a lot hard to turn and steer.

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The suspect stroller at Epcot

We didn’t have a big incident the second day. I was bummed that The Hulk roller coaster was under construction because it is my favorite roller coaster. We went back the next day with Aunt Vicki and Matt again. We had a pretty good day until my husband, the kids and I decided to ride the Flight of the Hippogriff ride while everybody else did the Forbidden Journey. We had just gotten off the ride when I saw a lady tugging on my son’s stroller. At first I thought that maybe she needed to move it to get to hers. Then I saw her daughter in a big pink coat jump in it and they started to walk away out of Harry Potter world. I turned to my husband to see if he could grab Baby Girl while I chased her down, but for some reason he was too far behind me. I yelled, “Our stroller!” and took off with Baby Girl in tow. I said, “Wait! Stop! That’s my stroller!” She turned and looked at me. I said, “That is my son’s stroller.” She said, “Oh. Okay. Thank you.” Her daughter who looked to be about five years old jumped out of it. An older gentleman standing right next to us was watching in surprise. He said he couldn’t believe what he just saw. About that time my husband walks up with my son and asks where I went. I told him a lady tried to steal the other stroller. The older gentleman spotted her standing nearby and pointed her out to my husband. My son said he needed to go to the bathroom and my husband took him. Before the older gentleman took off he told me I should report her since she was still standing there possibly trying to find another stroller to steal.

I thought that even though the strollers were not super expensive, it still is a burden to have to spend even more money on something like that, not to mention you have to carry your kid around because someone took your stroller. I didn’t take too long to decide to take my daughter and two strollers back up to the Flight of the Hippogriff employee to tell her what happened. I asked if she could get security. The lady walked off before security could come. I described her to him. I still know what she was wearing. She wore a black short sleeve shirt with a Mickey Mouse’s outline on it. She had white pants on and her daughter was wearing a pink coat. I kept telling them that my husband took my son to the bathroom because I didn’t want them to think I wasn’t telling the truth.  I mean I was standing there with two strollers and one kid. The security guard was there when my husband came back with my son. Then my husband actually saw the lady and pointed her out to the security guard. He called it in, but they didn’t want to do anything since we had our stroller. It was okay, I guess. We did still have our stroller. The security guard said he saw her and has her description. So if he heard of anything else on the radio about it, he would know who to go find.

My in-laws got off the ride and took the kids so we could ride the Forbidden Journey. My husband, Matt and I went in the single rider line. My adrenaline was still going for a while. I was talking about it to Matt when the lady in front of me heard me and started to talk to me about it. I actually started to feel a little bad about turning her in just in case it was just a misunderstanding. I had described the stroller to the lady in line and she said, “You shouldn’t feel bad at all. How many mothers really confuse a green dinosaur camouflage stroller for their daughter’s stroller.” Part of me also thought that if she had taken off with it, she would have been super frustrated with the broken wheel.

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The stroller that was almost stolen

 

Funny thing is that one of the times my in-laws had them while we were on another ride, a little girl came by with a stroller like the one we just bought my daughter. My mother-in-law had to take my daughter to the stroller parking and show her that her new stroller was fine. She looked at my father-in-law and said, “You take care of this!”

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The new stroller we bought from CVS

 

Later we kind of figured that since the little girl looked a bit older that maybe she was just tired and the mom didn’t want to carry her. So she just happened to grab the closest stroller without anything in it. In both cases the stroller left behind had something in it. My mother-in-laws jacket was in Baby Boy’s stroller when Baby Girl’s stroller was stolen and Matt put his shirt over Baby Girl’s visor to dry after he got wet in the caves in Jurassic Park. It just seems weird that two out of the three days we spent at Universal parks we had those issues.

The next thing wasn’t really bad, but it had me kind of wondering why Disney doesn’t have more prince or king characters. I mean my son thinks Buzz, Woody, The Incredibles and all that are pretty cool, but he also likes Kristoff, Prince Eric, Prince Charming, etc. Baby Girl dressed up as Cinderella and we went to Cinderella’s castle for breakfast one day. I think there are Prince Charming or Kristoff costumes but they are not as easy to find as a princess dress. My mother-in-law bought Baby Boy a little suit with a purple shirt and tie since that is his favorite color. He said he was dressed like a king. So he was okay with what he was wearing that day. The issue was when we got to the castle he wanted to meet the men of the fairy tales and I say why not? Why not have one or two princes come in and meet everyone? How many little boys end up eating there? Jasmine is there. Why not have an Aladdin too? I’m just saying.

We saw a lot of characters while we were there. I have to say seeing them while you dine is the best. We actually got a little card a few times on some shows and rides that they said help them determine a better wait time. They gave us one for meeting Cinderella and Rapunzel. Baby Girl had already met Cinderella, but she wanted to meet Rapunzel too since Rapunzel wasn’t at breakfast. The Elsa and Anna line said it was two hours. The Cinderella and Rapunzel line was supposed to be thirty minutes. We ended up waiting over and hour! A lady said her husband went through with his girls in the Elsa and Anna line faster than the Cinderella and Rapunzel line. I guess it was a good thing they gave us that card. I hope they corrected the wait time after that.

We moved from the time share to the Art of Animation resort to take advantage of the free transportation to the races. We also went ahead and turned in our rental so we could use the transportation to the parks as well. That experience gave me a new pet peeve. My new pet peeve is people who bring big expensive strollers that do not fold well to theme parks. Ugh! There was one lady who had a huge double stroller that took up the whole aisle on the bus because it just didn’t fold up very well. I have twins and we brought two light weight easy to carry umbrella strollers. I guess the down side to that is that they are also easy to steal. It is also annoying to have these huge strollers take up so much room on the sidewalks with people walking at the speed of snail!

Walking slow with strollers reminds me of how annoyed I get when people don’t just walk casually, they seem to be hardly moving at all! I mean I cannot walk that slow EVER! Shoot, we went to a theme park after we did the Goofy Challenge and I STILL could not walk that slow. I mean my legs were sore and walking that slow was still annoying. Seriously, does most of America walk THAT slow?

The other thing that was a big thorn in my side was the Fast Passes. I was really dreading them. I think I mentioned that in a previous post. Well it was insane. Once I thought I got everything set, something would happen, and we would change days to go a particular park. Then sometimes we would get to the ride and the wait wouldn’t be long so we decided to use the Fast Pass for something else. I like the app. I’m glad I can change things up on the fly but I really didn’t like doing it. My husband kept constantly asking me why I didn’t get a Fast Pass for a firework show or a particular ride that is popular. All I could say was that I took what was available. A newbie mistake was that we didn’t know you had to use all three Fast Passes for your entire party before you could get your fourth Fast Pass at a kiosk at the park. We wanted to be sure to get a good seat for Fantasmic one night so we couldn’t get the fourth pass. Wouldn’t you know, it rained that night and Fantasmic was canceled.

While we are talking about rides, can I say something about height requirements here? My son is a little over thirty-eight inches without his shoes. So with his shoes he is super close to the forty inch height requirement that seemed to be on a lot of rides. Now the only rides that actually had me a little scared were the Pteranodon Flyers and ET, but those rides only had a only a thirty-six or thirty-four inch height requirement. I was most nervous about the Pteranodon Flyers until we saw that they have an extra strap between the legs for the kids that are real little. Actually you couldn’t get on Pteranodon Flyers without a small child. If you are unfamiliar with the Pteranodon Fyler ride let me tell you it is kind of like the child is sitting in a swing with another right behind it for the adult. It goes along a track around the Jurassic Park area pretty fast. Now the rides we had problems getting on with the kids weren’t really dangerous. They were virtual rides. We think that maybe it was more of a viewing pleasure thing. If you were too short to see the screen you wouldn’t get what was happening. Baby Boy could see the screen though and being that these rides were virtual he was completely safe the entire time. Now when I say virtual I mean like the Minion ride where you are in a cart that moves around a bit here and there and not the Forbidden Journey where it actually leans you forward or does a sudden drop like the Mummy ride. So I got real frustrated when they made my son sit in the stationary seat for Minions. Then I was heartbroken when we got out and he looked at me and asked, “Mommy, when do I get to ride the ride?” Actually the Minion ride was the only one he didn’t get to get the full experience. We got on Spiderman just fine, but we had to go back and ask a different employee for Transformers and Star Tours. I mean he was that close to the bar that it was mostly a judgement call. And like I said before, theses were big boxes or carts that did not go upside down or do a roller coaster dip movement. They were virtual.

So now that I’ve stepped up on my soap box (well most of this post is a soap box). Let’s talk about transportation to Magic Kingdom. I hate that it is so hard to get to there. What I mean by that is that at Epcot you could park and then walk right on in there. At the Magic Kingdom you have to park, ride a tram to the transportation station and then take a boat or monorail over to the park. You can’t even ride a monorail directly there from some place like Epcot. You have to get off one monorail to just get in line to get on another one to get to the park. The only time we had direct transportation was the bus at our resort.

Speaking of our resort. Like I said we stayed at the Art of Animation. I picked it over a lot of the other value resorts because of the decor. I figured the kids would like it better and they did. The issue was that we liked the food court and gift shop at Pop Century better. We learned they were within walking distance when we tried to get chicken nuggets at our resort. They did not have chicken nuggets at Art of Animation and one of the workers told us we could walk across the bridge to the Pop Century and get them there. While we were there we saw they had a better selection at the gift shop as well. One night we went there before we went to our room to get us all some food. I got a pulled pork sandwich called the Johnny Appleseed that I LOVED. I still think of it. I think next time I would stay at Pop Century just for the food.

Now the kids were happy at Art of Animation, but the adults had a hard time going from a  a spacious time share to a smaller Lion King family suite. We also had a hard time with our smart phones. The WIFI and cell service sucked there. In January the weather can be just about anything in Florida. It was kind of cool some of the days we were there. I spent some time outside on one of those cool days on the stairs to make a call to customer service about our Memory Maker. It was definitely frustrating.

I know this post is a lot longer than my “good” post, but I want you to know we had a really good time. It was actually awesome! We just don’t go very often because it is so expensive and the last time we went we had nephews and a niece. We did not have kids ourselves. We also did not have a race to schedule around either. We are of course going to go back some day. We don’t know how soon but not for another year or two to save up some money again. Let’s just say we learned a lot this trip.

 

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The Good ….

I’ve split up our theme park experience between the good and not so good. It is strange how you can go on about some things that aren’t as good and have it overshadow the good stuff. Over all our trip was great. A bucket list item got checked off and we learned a lot about how we might want to do it next time should we go again with the kids. The kids loved it because well it IS the happiest place on Earth, right?

This was the kids’ first visit to Disney and Universal. I felt like any sooner than three and they wouldn’t appreciate it as much or even remember any of it. There is still a chance they won’t remember anything, but I think they had a blast and appreciate it quite a bit more than they would have last year. I knew I would get emotional when I finished the race, but I also got a little emotional a few times with the kids just in the theme parks. My mind just seems to go back to when I thought I might not ever get to have kids. I, at one short time, thought I wouldn’t get to share all these cool iconic things with my kids. Whenever we do get to do something like go to Disney my mind goes back to that, and I start to cry. I am just so appreciative of what I have. I get so happy just looking at how their little faces light up when we do things like that. I love how they get all excited. I’m getting a little misty now typing this.

We actually went to Universal first. My husband and I LOVE Harry Potter. We let the kids watch the first movie even though it is a little scary at the end. I think they liked it. So they were able to recognize Harry Potter stuff when they saw it. I mean they even pointed Harry out on the billboards around town. I don’t think they fully appreciate Harry Potter yet, but they were not completely in the dark about who he was.

We forgot about E.T. though. The kids liked the ride, but they kept calling ET a sea turtle. A few days after we got home we found a copy of the E.T. movie and watched it with them. Again it was another one of those things we shared with them that gets me all misty eyed.

They did “okay” without naps at the theme parks. Baby Boy would doze off around 5 PM or so if they didn’t get one. He didn’t do that every time but quite a few times. He was only super tired and cranky maybe two or three times. Baby Girl did pretty well. The adults weren’t too terrible either. We got cranky with each other only a handful of times and I think it was because we were just tired.

We also got to see family while in Florida. We have been to Florida with the kids when they were just over one year old. We went to just hang out in Florida and spend time with my mother-in-law’s sister, Aunt Vicki, and her two girls Micah and Mimi. Micah has a little girl about a year older than our kids. We didn’t get to see the girls or the little one this trip. We saw their brother, Matt instead. It was fun. They had Universal passes and spent two days with us at the park. Otherwise I don’t think we would have been able to see them for very long. We basically had passes to one theme park or another every single day. Aunt Vicki and Matt are a hoot. We all rode the River Adventure Ride in the Jurassic Park area while my in-laws took our kids on the Pteranodon Flyers. We got pictures and they were pretty funny. My husband looks like he is trying to catch a Pteranodon, I’m just screaming, Aunt Vicki cannot be seen because she put her jacket is all the way over her head to keep dry, and Matt is just chilling and smiling. By the way, Aunt Vicki did not get wet.

River

My kids have been obsessed with the Grinch book and cartoon. They were not so impressed with the Jim Carrey movie. We caught the last day of Universal’s Grinchmas. We got pictures with the Grinch. Baby Boy might have acted a little scared but I know he was loving it because how much he talked about it afterwards. They also met Spider Man, Captain America, a minion, Shrek, Donkey, and Optimus Prime.

We meet so many other characters at Disney. We met a ton of princesses. I love the look on Baby Girl’s face when she saw Elsa and Anna. Baby Boy can be a little shy, but I know by the look on his face he was NOT being shy when we met Chewbacca. I think he was just in awe. It was really awesome. So much so my husband made the photo his profile picture.

We stayed about a week at a time share my in-laws had. It was nice and not too terribly far from everything. I think we were “spitting distance” to Sea World which we did not visit. I’ve never visited a Sea World but there was no way we could go with all the tickets we already had to the other theme parks. The time share was definitely spacious compared to the Disney resort we moved to for the race. The Disney resort was fun for the kids though. We stayed at Art of Animation. We had a Lion King family suite. The kids loved all the huge plastic characters around the place. They loved the pictures in the resort and room too. It was just a big cool adventure for them.

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Large plastic characters at Art of Animation.

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Hidden Mickey’s in the carpet in our room

 

We had several dining reservations, but my favorite Disney dining experience was one we just showed up to for lunch at the Garden Grill at Epcot. We didn’t have to wait very long. The food was fantastic and it was a rotating restaurant. It rotated at a nice comfortable speed. The front side was the entrance while the back side was the scenery for the Living Land boat ride. You had a countryside scene, a dessert scene, things like that if you have not been on the boat ride. My son was being picky as usual, but they were nice enough to not charge us for him. It was a set price per person because it was an all you can eat family style setting. I loved that too. It is nice to have an all you can eat, but have the food brought to you. Their sweet potato fries are awesome. Makes me hungry just thinking about them. The kids also got to see Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale.

We did Cinderella’s Castle for breakfast. My daughter dressed like Cinderella and got to have her picture taken with the “real” Cinderella in the lobby. My son didn’t have a costume but we did dress him up in a nice shirt with a vest and tie in his favorite color, purple. He said he was dressed like a king and was happy with it that day. Baby Girl loved meeting all the princesses during our meal. We saw Snow White, Jasmine, Aurora, and Ariel. Baby Boy was a little bashful at first. He did not get his picture with Cinderella in the lobby but he did with the other princesses during our meal. The food was okay and the kids got a magic wand and sword. I was worried at first that my son was going to skip another meal but we finally got him to eat some Mickey waffles.

Random Turkey in parking lot after visiting Cinderella's castle.

Random Turkey in parking lot after visiting Cinderella’s castle.

We had been to Chef Mickey’s before when we went with my sister-in-law and her kids years ago. So we went again for a late breakfast this time. It wasn’t much different from what I remembered. The kids loved seeing all the characters. We saw Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto. An added bonus was that my son was more willing to eat since there was a wider variety of breakfast food. Doing a late breakfast was cool because you got breakfast and lunch on the buffet. The adults liked that.

Be Our Guest had really good food. We did lunch though and didn’t see any characters. I was excited at first because I thought Baby Girl would eat the turkey sandwich and Baby Boy would eat the macaroni with red pasta sauce. It was a no go though. He likes spaghetti but he was not thrilled with the way the noodles looked. He would not even try it. He wouldn’t try anything anybody tried to share with him. Baby Girl ate a few bites of the turkey sandwich but she wouldn’t eat anything else. This was very frustrating for me especially since we had struggled with so many other meals. Baby Girl dressed as Elsa this day, but Baby Boy didn’t want to dress up this time unless we had a Kristoff outfit. The adults all really liked the dishes they ordered. I think most of us order different sandwiches The lentil soup was really good.

The kids loved the rides. I think the rides the kids liked the best were any kind of boat ride or train ride. My son liked Haunted Mansion but my daughter hid her head behind me the entire ride. Later she said she wanted to ride it again, but I think it was because her brother talked about it so much. After we got off that ride we found a headband with Minnie Mouse ears on it in my daughter’s stroller. It was late and we were leaving. We wondered if someone just wanted to give them away to be nice or if maybe a worker just saw my daughter’s stroller and thought it would be nicer than taking it to lost and found. We are not sure how often things like that are ever actually claimed.

Some of the virtual rides we went on the kids thought were a little scary because of the bad guys. They were not so scared that it upset them real bad. They of course liked the good guys winning over the bad guys every time. They wanted to be carried a lot when we were in line, but they weren’t too bad. They would sometimes make a little game of going around me or one of my legs. It let the time go by for us all. There were a few rides we didn’t get to hit, but I told my husband it is just an excuse to try to save up and come back a few years later.

Like I said, it was a great trip. I’ve got at least two other posts to talk some more about it all. The other posts about the not so good stuff has a little drama (we had a stroller stolen) and some complaints (why can’t I find a Kristoff outfit next to a Anna or Elsa outfit?). The last post is our two races. I decided to post them together and compare side by side instead of telling you about one and then about the other. It kind of made it easier to remember. I hope it is easy to read and follow it.

 

 

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