A fun week was spent at Universal Orlando Resort. I figured it would be a great time for the kids, but my goal was to also score some relaxation while away.
When Pam was making our travel plans and securing the park passes, I encouraged her to allocate at least one full day for nothing. I knew the other days we would be getting up early and getting to the parks to try and beat the crowds. On every vacation, I personally need some moments of restful awareness to contrast with what I would be doing if working. It’s a cathartic reflection and makes me appreciative. It would be tough to do if every day involved 10 hours of amusement rides and 25,000 steps.
Some highlights from our time away:
- “But it’s dark out.”
It was what Beckett said the first morning after daylight savings time began as we were getting ready to leave our hotel room.
Since it was spring break and clearly Orlando was jamming, we knew it was going to be a busy week at any park we went to the entire week. We warned the kids we were going to get after it early and often while the weather was a little off and to manage the crowds. Starting early was the way to go, even if it meant getting up each morning the same time on vacation we would for work and school.
Overall, the kids were great about accepting the unusual vacation wakeup times. After the first few days and recognizing the crowd differences between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., they realized their parents were right. There is always a sweet vindication when that happens. Due to early starts, some days we left the parks at lunchtime for the pool the rest of the day. It was a good balance.
There were some funny moments each morning though as we rushed to get out of the hotel room. Beckett, 13, is the slower of the two kids in the early morning hours. On the first morning, while he was eating his bagel in the room, I was applying sunscreen to him. It was 6:55 in the morning and the spray coming out of the can was freezing. As he screamed, which always makes me giggle, I encouraged him to stay still and be quiet in my best loving voice.
It was when he said, “but it’s dark out,” questioning why sunscreen was needed. I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. A few hours later on a cloudy day, while we were getting on a ride, he poked fun a bit, saying, “at least if the sun ever does come out today, I’m prepared.”
- Not that Universal needs my endorsement, but anyone with kids who enjoy the Harry Potter series – as mine do – must check it out. Both parks offer experiences with several rides themed to represent memorable parts from the books. It was a frequent sight to see wands being waved around making magic happen throughout the parks.
It only took about 10 minutes for Beckett to request one. We crammed into the designated gift shop with the most special of wands evidently. After waiting in line for 30 minutes to pay, I was lectured by the cashier on the uniqueness of the wands and how there will be nowhere in the park the prices are different. I had heard this a dozen times already by virtue of being in line. Being nosy by nature, I asked a couple questions, but he was unfazed and continued on with his spiel. The $59.99 wand came with a map and a special box.
A couple days later, I asked Beckett why he was not taking the wand to the park each day. He said he just wants to keep it on his bookshelf as a souvenir.
As for Carson, 12, he passed on the wand and opted for a few other expensive items at the gift shop. It was interesting he picked out items totaling about $60. It seems fair is fair.
- After a busy morning standing in lines and dealing with crowds, the hotel pool was the perfect place to unwind along with hundreds of other people. It was a week of crowds to be certain.
Therefore, when the wait staff came over to us shortly after we kicked our legs up around the pool with a drink menu, Pam and I indulged. After the wand experience, I was unfazed by the prices. The server was excellent and always nearby whenever we needed a refill. After a couple drinks in record time, he did us a solid, returning with a couple ice waters. He seemed to know what ails parents on a family vacation.
Nearby on his iPad, Carson – who always seems oblivious but never truly is – had a good laugh. He knew what was going on. Mom and Dad needed a break.
- After eight nights in a hotel room with our boys, I woke up the morning we were to check out on a mission to get home. We had a super nice room, but home was calling. Therefore, I was looking to make the 13-hour drive the same day.
When I got a quick breakfast for everyone that morning from the lobby market, I also put together a lunch to avoid stopping for an extended time. I did not want to spend the night on the road. Traffic would be the key to seeing whether that happened.
All in all, it was a smooth drive and we made it home about 10:30 p.m. after leaving Orlando at 8 a.m.
I love my kids, but admit I enjoyed the Monday morning school drop immensely.