{Mini Trip Report} Long Weekend in Orlando

Orlando is my hometown. I moved there in the eighties before Universal, MGM, or Animal Kingdom was built. Oh those were the days in central Florida, when I-drive and Disney were smaller yet the main hubs. Things weren’t so crowded or complicated.  Below are some of my favorite destinations/memories during those days…. Anyone from Orlando will know what they are. Sadly, these attractions are long gone. Orlando today is much more overwhelming… there’s more people, lights, sensory overload, and expense.

Photo by Nomeus, 2007 - Flurbex.com


Flash forward to the present day and age. We opted for a long weekend trip to Orlando to see family over Easter and to take advantage of our companion pass on Southwest (which saved us $500 this trip). We stayed in two hotels, rented a car,  ate out for all meals, and squeezed in a day at Islands of Adventure. In short, it was an expensive weekend despite the Southwest advantage and getting a good $10 a day deal  with free gas on an Alamo full sized vehicle. Overall, it was a wonderful trip with plenty of sun and warm weather. That’s what counts as a New Yorker still surrounded by snow.

IOA UNIVERSAL TIPS:

1. In regards to rides, the Express pass is worth it. Or if you don’t mind being split up, try the single rider line. We had neither and only rode two rides. Each was a 60-70 min wait.

IMG_20150403_105027

2. Eat lunch at Three Broomsticks. It was efficient and only took 20 minutes to receive our food. We opted for a chicken ribs plate (with roasted corn on cob) and fish and chips. My son had a butter beer and chicken strips. The corn was a little undercooked, but everything else was tasty!

IMG_20150403_131935

3.  You can buy your Harry Potter wand and items at the front store to avoid the crowds and mayhem in the small shops in the Harry Potter section. Our hotel actually sold many of the same items, and there wasn’t a 20 person line.

IMG_20150405_130400

4. Have fun!

MY HOTEL SUGGESTION: Cabana Bay Beach Hotel

Cons:
-Small rooms and no balcony
-No early check in or checkout givn to us
-Parking fee ($13 per day)
-Breakfast for a fee (8.95 in the diner or try the Starbucks. Hotel room only has a frig)
-Large and spread out (aka lots of walking)

Pros:
+Newer hotel with a fun vibe (bathrooms stocked with VO5 and Zest!)
+Comfy bed
+Lazy river, slide, 2 pools  plus outdoor games like baggo and lawn golf
+Free transport to Universal (5 min ride)
+Affordable price even for a holiday spring weekend: $199 per night

IMG_20150406_095200

IMG_20150405_180705

We will stay here again especially if my son has any say in it. He said it was the best vacation ever. 🙂

 

#TBT- Fort Myers Beach vacay, 2012

One of the vacations that I never blogged about was our 2012 trip to Ft. Myers Beach. I think the reason behind it was that as soon as we returned to NY, I began looking for employment. I was prepping my resume, getting my fingerprints, and applying for my license. This trip was  a celebration trip- I was finished with my Master’s of Science in Teaching degree. Granted I had to finish my final project while ON this trip, but once I clicked SEND, I still had half the trip to savor and party like a rockstar.

I love Ft. Myers Beach (FMB). I have been vacationing here since elementary school. During my childhood, FMB was were we went to celebrate the end of the school year and my birthday during Memorial Day weekend. Thus, it seemed fitting for me to celebrate the conclusion of my degree here.

Continue reading

{Trip Report} The FL Keys for Winter Break

Those who live in colder regions of the USA typically get a wonderful week off in February called ‘Winter Break.’ Throngs of people take advantage of the time off from school to get an actual break from the brutal winter weather. Most of us are plain SICK of snow and freezing temperatures by February. Last year I regretted not booking a warm weather vacation, but I did check for last minute deals: there were none left. Flights were booked solid with the exception of a few $1,000 seats left. Um, no thank you! I vowed not to make that mistake again. I budgeted our family of 3 approximately $2,500 (see expense report at the bottom) and began to research possible destinations that would fit my small (teacher) budget. In the end, the Florida Keys won.

sign

Saturday: We are loyal Southwest Airline customers, especially after they integrated the A/B/C lineup concept; we despised the first-come, first-serve lineup gig they had years and years ago. Eight or so years ago we got rid of all our credit cards and signed up for the Visa Southwest Reward card. We get points for all our purchases, and we find that it helps fund our vacations. For instance, last year we cashed in our points and scored six free round trip flights to places like Florida and Puerto Rico. We currently have three free flights waiting to be used for our next trip. Since Southwest bought Airtrain, more and more international flights are coming available; soon we’ll be able to use our points easily to book flights on Southwest.com to Aruba, Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Dominican Republic. In a nutshell, we love Southwest, and we used points to help ease the cost of flying down to Florida during a prime time.

Our nonstop flight out of Buffalo was set to depart mid afternoon.  We were a little anxious about our flight being cancelled or delayed due to a storm that had wreaked havoc in many nearby cities. Just the day before we had received an additional 9″ of snow.

At 7:30 in the morning, Southwest text me to say that our 3:30 pm flight was already delayed. That didn’t sound promising! We hit the road just before noon and made it to Buffalo with plenty of time to spare. We were ushered to the prescreen TSA line where we didn’t have to remove our shoes or sweatshirts. They did test Nick’s hands, though. They also pulled his carry on because he had a big, big box cutter in it. Awesome.

Continue reading

We’re Baaaack!

All good things must come to an end… we’re back in St. Louis after an eventful 2 week vacation to Florida & Mexico. We had a wonderful time visiting with family and friends and basking in the warm temperatures (well, at least the temps in Orlando and Mexico were favorable. Not so much in Largo!). And we ended our vacation with a short cruise to Cozumel and Costa Maya via the Grandeur of the Seas! We already miss the warm sun (there’s snow on the ground here in St. Louis–boo!) so I thought I’d post a couple photos of this divine sun! Ahh, I’m ready for spring and summer! More pics to come soon. I’m off to do some laundry. Back to reality!

warm sun above our cruiseship

Sunrise in Cozumel, Mexico

Early morning sky onboard the Granduer of the Seas

The sun peeking through in Costa Maya

The Banyan, a hotel in Key West


If Nick and I ever return to Key West for a vacation (and I hope we do!), we will be staying (again) at the Banyan Resort. The location is prime, the price is reasonable, and the rooms are comfortable and spacious. Our favorite bars and restaurants were one block away, too! You can’t beat that! So, in my usual fashion, I wrote a Trip Advisor review about my stay at the Banyan! You can read my review by clicking HERE! Or you can visit the hotel’s website by clicking HERE!

New Pictures

in Key West on a sunset cruise

in Key West on a sunset cruise

We’re back from our vacation to Florida– it was a wonderful trip! It was a jam-packed 11 days, but it was well worth it all. We started our in Orlando in order to see my family and to attend a friend’s wedding. Then we headed south to Largo to visit with Nick’s parents and our old college buddies. It’s so fun to see how our children get along just as well as we do. Then, Nick and I left Xander in the tender loving care of his parents and headed further south to the Florida Keys. Big thanks to our friend Jovan for driving us in his truck– it’s a 8 hour drive, one way. We stayed in downtown Key West at the Banyan Hotel (a true gem! Stay here if you ever visit Key West) and were literally one block away from the nightlife of Duval Street. We met up with some other friends during this little kid free weekend and had an awesome time. It was a bit hot, but we kept cool inside the bars. Hehe! After 3 nights away from Xander, we headed back up to Largo and found him spoiled rotten! Thanks again Peter & Barbara!! So, here we are, back in St. Louis and ready for a long, hot summer. We’ve nearly depleted Nick’s 5 week vacation allowance… so Hotel Mills is currently accepting reservations!

View Photos from our trip here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leighuf/sets/72157617558867935/

15 months!

Hard to believe, but, Xander is 15 months old now! Today he had his checkup with his doctor and everything went smoothly… well, until he had to have 3 shots in the thigh. He didn’t like that. And he REALLY won’t like it when I take him to get his blood drawn this afternoon. He weighed in just over 23lbs (30th percentile) and measured 32.5 inches (90th percentile) so he’s still my tall skinny mini! He’s right on target developmentally and looks healthy so the Doc gave us 2 thumbs up. On our trip to Florida he said two new words: ‘yum’ and ‘done.’ He’s been signing ‘done’ since January, but now he says it too. He recently learned to shake his head ‘yes’…. shaking his head ‘no’ was learned looooong ago.  🙂 Xander continues to love the water. In Florida he enjoyed Memaw & Papaw’s pool, the blowup pool at Nana and Grandpa’s, the kiddie pool at Hamlin’s Landing, and the rolling waves at Indian Rocks Beach. He likes water on his head and sticking his head in the water. He has zero water fear. He mastered turning the door handles at Memaw and Papaw’s but luckily still hasn’t figured it out here in Saint Louis! He’s such a copycat, too. If he sees me do something once, he’ll immediately imitate me. For instance, he saw me remove the vent in the dryer to clean off the lint and he immediately went over and removed it right after I replaced it. Or, he watched how Memaw opened the pantry closet door and suddenly he was opening it soon after trying it get out the can goods. New dangers lurk everywhere! He’s likes climbing onto the couch, trying to to walk upstairs, or running down the driveway. He’s always looking for me to turn away so he can walk into the road. Ah, the joy of having a toddler. 🙂

Photos from our FL trip can be viewed on Flickr by clicking HERE.

What’s on my Head?!!

Xander in the pool

Xander, Me, and baby Slator at the kiddie pool

Hamlin's

 

Daddy & Xander in the big pool

big pool

Having a ball

We’ve been visiting family and friends in Florida for the past week… we’re still down here enjoying the warm, no.. HOT, weather, lively conversation, and yummy food/cocktails. It’s hard to believe we will be returning to St. Louis tomorrow evening. How fast time flies when you’re having fun! Today we’ve booked a two-story suite at the local beach Holiday Inn. Us, along with some friends and their children, will enjoy some pool time, food, and more beer. I know Xander will be very sad to leave Florida tomorrow…. he’s loved all the attention (from the grandparents, of course), pool/beach experiences (he loved chasing the seagulls), and long walks in his stroller. 🙂 

Xander