Written by: Mark Plante Published On: March 10, 2022
After a long wait, and a lot of planning out 2022 Florida trip has come, and went. After months of planning and scheduling and rescheduling… It is over.
To sum it up, this year’s trip was great! One of the best trips that we have ever taken.
For those that may not know, we went to our typical Winter destination, Orlando, FL. This year’s trip was to pre-celebrate my youngest daughter’s High School Graduation. She has worked hard throughout all of her school years and was well deserving of a week where she could let loose, not think about schoolwork and have some real fun.
Our family has always visited Disney World in Orlando for our Winter Vacations. Our oldest daughter’s High School Graduation trip was scheduled for April of 2020 and as everyone knows, that did not happen due to COVID. After rescheduling and canceling several times, we finally visited the House of Mouse in July of 2021, eighteen months late and fifteen months after her actual graduation, but we got there.
Our visit to Lake Buena Vista and the Walt Disney Resort was less than impressive. We had a good time, but it was not the Disney that my girls remembered. So many of the things that we have always done on previous vacations were gone. We always looked forward to FastPasses, but those were removed for the later announced paid version “Genie+”. No longer were there Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours were when the park would either open hours earlier or stay open hours later (as late as 2am) for those guests that were staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. Another thing that we looked forward to was the food. During this trip, it was not good. Prices had dramatically risen since before the parks closed and, like I said, it was not good. The part about the trip that bothered me most was that the Disney Employees, which they call Cast-members, did not care. Disney Cast-members were always a bright spot and always made you feel as though they would run through a brick wall to make sure that you and your family were having the best possible time that you could. They were not there this time.
So when we started to plan our 2022 Winter trip, we asked my daughter where she wanted to go. To our surprise, she said “Not Disney”. She said that things were so different in our last trip to Disney World, she did not want to ruin any more of the great memories that she had with the family in the theme parks. She said basically what we did in July, 2021 was nothing more than a glorified Six Flags and that in no way, shape or form was that Disney.
So where were we to go? When we first started to visit Orlando back in 2005, we would do Disney and also spend a day or two at Universal Studios Florida and a day at SeaWorld Orlando. But around 2013, Universal, Disney and SeaWorld started using a structured fee scale for their ticket prices. This meant that if you bought tickets for 4 or more days, the last three or four days were very inexpensive. But if you bought tickets for 1 or 2 days, it was very expensive and made visiting the three parks beyond my family’s budget.
Welcome to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Since we last visited Universal Studios has added the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” and several other rides and attraction that were more attractive to teens and adults. So we decided to book three days park to park at Universal Studios. Ticket prices were about 10% less than three days at Disney. We also decided to stay at a Universal Hotel. Universal had built two new “Value” hotels on the former site of the Wet n Wild water park on Universal Blvd. The hotels are called Endless Summer. One is Surfside and across the street is Dockside. While booking, they were supposed to be comparable to the Disney Value Resorts. Definitely not in price… Endless Summer Surfside was half the price of Disney’s Pop Century. Also with staying at a Universal Resort, we received one hour early admission to the park and free shuttle transportation to and from the parks.
We decided to take what we called a “chill day” this would be a day where would would have nothing planned and go where ever the rental car took us or even just spend a day lounging by the pool.
This meant that we had two more days to cover. Around mid-November, I saw an ad online for Black Friday Savings at a park called Discovery Cove. For those that don’t know, Discovery Cove is owned by SeaWorld and it is an all-inclusive resort where you are able to swim with the dolphins. This is always something that my youngest daughter and my wife had always wanted to do, but it was always too expensive for us to afford. We Looked into the Black Friday ad and the price was almost 70% off of their normal rate and you also got 14 days of admission to both SeaWorld and Aquatica (SeaWorld’s water park). Two days with nothing to do, problem solved!
So before Christmas, we had our entire vacation pretty much booked and paid for. We purchased airline tickets through Southwest Airlines with a direct flight from Providence(PVD) to Orlando(MCO). My wife made reservations for our two dogs to go to the kennel. So the only thing left that we had to get was a rental car. At this point of our planning, car rental prices were obscene ($1,000+ a week)! We decided to wait a little bit to book a car and we were gambling that prices were going to go down.
In the next parts of this series, we will let you know how our trip went, was it worth it, compare Universal parks and food against Disney parks and food and more.
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