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Trip Report The Many Adventures of the Figaro Family in Florida

Discussion in 'WDW Trip Reports' started by Figaro Family, Aug 31, 2017.

  1. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member

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    We are back! It's going to take me a little bit of time to organize the photos and my thoughts but I thought I'd at least get this trip report started. For anyone who wants to get to know us, you can read my pre-trip report "Everybody's Got a Laughing Place (and I can't wait to get to mine!)"
    Quick re-rundown of the family: Me (Jo), my husband James, daughter Maddie (13), son Xander (10).
    This was the longest vacation our family of four has ever taken together. Ten nights total in three different hotel rooms. It was a lot of togetherness but I think we all handled it pretty well, aside from various late night awakenings from loud snoring(James and Xander) and my daughter Maddie's sleep talking. I'm sure she does this at home too, but we don't hear her in her room. Every night on every vacation we've been on she'll sit up suddenly and start angrily lecturing about something while wildly gesturing. She never remembers it the next day and I'm left curious what she was dreaming about. No one complained about anything I did, so I assume I slept like an angel that does not snore or talk in her sleep;).
    I'll begin with the very end of the trip while it is still fresh in my mind then go back to the beginning when I get the photos organized.
    The trip ended last night with a bit of good news then bad news. Good news was our flight got us home to Portland a full hour early!!!! It was a combo of being able to take off 15 minutes ahead of schedule and winds of some kind that shaved of the other 45 minutes. We were supposed to get home at 7:30pm pacific time but got in closer to 6:30. We were really excited because that meant we had a chance at picking up our three pets from boarding before the place closed at 9pm. We had thought we'd have to wait until this morning.
    The first inkling of bad news came when we got our car from the long term lot and tried to pay the parking fee. James swiped his credit card but it got rejected. He tried again, rejected again. We try mine (same account), it gets rejected. "That's not good..." we say to each other. He pays with the bank card and we race home so we can drop of the luggage and James and Maddie can go to pick up the pets. I say "don't you think we should call the credit card company?" he says "I don't wan't to waste time with that, let's just get the pets home". They get to the boarding place and James tries to pay, the credit card gets rejected again. So there he is in the pet hotel calling the credit card company to find out what's going on. Apparently multiple fraudulent charges started showing up on our account while we were in the air and our cards got shut down. We use Disney Chase Visa and I do have to applaud them for catching this so quickly. James was able to get them to let our charge for the pet boarding go through before they fully shut down the account and we were able to identify all the charges that we did not make and don't have to worry about them. It didn't make for a nice relaxing homecoming at all! I have a bad feeling that it happened at the airport just before we boarded the plane. I went to one of those airport stands that sell snacks and picked up a few things for us to eat on the plane. I swiped the card instead of using the chip without thinking and even had a moment of unease about it at the time. I think it was an ideal place for someone to install one of those card skimmers:grumpy:.
    This was truly the most drama filled moment of the entire trip. thought there were a few smaller ones that felt big at the time! I'll start at the beginning on my next post.
    ...stay tuned for part one: An extremely early morning drive to the airport.
     
  2. riverside

    riverside Active Member

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    Sorry to hear about the credit card issue. Unfortunately--been there done that myself. A few years ago after coming home from Disney a few days later I got a text about my Disney Chase Visa. I was skeptical of the text & didn't want to respond to it so I logged into my account & WOW--thank goodness they also caught it quick in my case. There were only 2 times I used the card on my trip. Once at POR so they could link the credit card to my magic band and then at the airport before we left Orlando.I would assume the airport was the culprit. Anyways, all the charges were being made in Miami. I was impressed that they caught it so quickly but wondered what threw up the "red flag" for them. I'm sure Chase Visa is used to my many charges in the Orlando area but what made them question these?

    Excited to read your report!!
     
  3. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    We had this happen to us about two years ago as well, no idea where the number was taken from but Chase Visa caught it right away. Someone in another state tried to make a $500 purchase on our account at a Toys R Us but didn't physically have the card. It's so frustrating when your card is virtually stolen that way. Then your hands are tied while waiting for the new card to show up. I was even more irritated this morning when I was looking through our photo pass pictures to decide which ones to buy then realized I couldn't get them until we get our new cards because our closed account is tied to my Disney Experience account for purchases:mad:.
     
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  4. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    I still don't have my photos organized. We only take pictures on our iphones since its to hard to juggle a "real" camera and keep track of Xander and everything else. We made the switch two years ago when I got an iphone 6 and decided the pictures were decent enough to replace our camera. James recently upgraded to a 7 which takes even better photos, especially in dark lighting. So our photos from this trip are a combo of the two phones that I need to mesh together in a file on my laptop so I can make sense of when all the photos were taken. We should have just traded phones during the trip since James hates taking time to take pictures himself and I was constantly ordering him to "give me your phone!" Maddie started teasing me about my constant picture taking "uh oh mom's getting her phone out again! Is this for your vacation report?" I didn't have time to take notes so I figured photos with time stamps would help me remember more clearly, but my answer was always "It's for our family memories of course!" and "I planned this awesome trip so I get to take as many pictures as I want!" Poor Xander though, I think he needs therapy for his pavlovian response to seeing my iphone. He started yelling "smile!" every time I got out my phone after awhile. I was like "Buddy, I'm not taking a picture right now. I'm just checking what time our next ride is!"
    I did type up an itinerary of what our general plans were for each day before we left. I spent some time looking it over earlier, crossed out things we didn't end up doing and filling in where we changed plans along the way and other memories that popped into my head. So now I think I have a pretty good template for getting this trip report off the ground as soon as the pictures are organized.
    I'll do the first bit with pictures from my phone since we didn't start using James' until later.
     
  5. riverside

    riverside Active Member

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    The whole experience is extremely frustrating. I have a lot of bills that get automatically charged to my card every month(helps to rack up the Disney dollars) so it's a pain to change things like that. I always wonder why these people don't put their energy to good use instead of ripping people off & making people's lives miserable.
     
  6. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    We are from the Portland Oregon area and were in the midst of eclipse madness leading up to our trip. I had no idea about the eclipse last winter when I started trip planning. When I did hear about it I checked the calendar and realized it was happening the day after our flight to Florida which was Sunday August 20. We are just outside the path of totality and the local news was full of stories about the huge amounts of people that were expected to travel to Oregon for the eclipse, how crazy it would be at the airport, and how bad the traffic was going to be. We were a little worried about what the trip to the airport would be like on Sunday morning but feeling pretty good about choosing an early morning flight with the odds high of the roads being mostly empty.
    So on Saturday the 19th we dropped off our three pets at the pet hotel. IMG_8434.JPG IMG_8428.JPG IMG_8437.JPG our sweet old lab Hattie, 9 year old cat Cricket, and 2 year old kitty Figaro who is the Disney namesake of the Figaro Family! They are all currently settling in back at home. Cricket spent about 24 hours hiding in the garage but has now emerged. Figaro, who rarely meows, has become quite a chatterbox. And Hattie, who is firmly attached to James and sees me as "the other woman", has actually been paying attention to me while James is at work!
    After the pet drop off we worked on finalizing the packing and decided to put Xander to bed early to try to get him some extra sleep. This did not work at all, he just played with toys in his room for an extra long time and we could still hear him chattering happily in there past 10pm. This did not help our other plan to get to sleep early ourselves!
    The alarm was set for 3am since we calculated that we needed to leave the house by 4 to get to the airport early enough for parking in long term and bussing to the main terminal etc. as our flight departure time was 6:40am. IMG_6784.JPG here is Xander sleeping sweetly just before we woke him up at 3:20am. His eyes popped open and he said "time for airplane!" And that was that. He was full of energy and ready to go. The rest of us were like slightly excited Zombies, happy about the vacation, but thinking sleep sounded a bit better right then. I irritated James and Maddie by insisting on taking pictures in the car of us ready to go. IMG_6788.JPG IMG_6790.JPG Maddie did a better job hiding it:p
    I also documented us waiting for the bus in the long term parking lot IMG_6792.JPG IMG_6796.JPG the drive to the airport at 4am was blissfully easy and was 40 minutes tops. We've had some nail biter drives during rush hour that took more than two hours. No eclipse was going to mess with our vacation!
    Tomorrow I'll continue with day one...
     
  7. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    As the next part of our airport journey involves accommodations for Xander's special needs, I'll do a recap here for anyone who didn't read the pre trip report. Xander is autistic which for him means developmental delays, limited expressive language, sensory issues, anxiety, and OCD as well as an impulse to bolt and non understanding of personal safety. All of these things together make us evaluate every situation for problems that could be headed off or potentially develop as well as trying to think on our feet on how to diffuse a situation quickly before a full on meltdown ensues. Sometimes with more success than others. Xander has grown a lot emotionally and is able to deal with a lot of things now that would have been harder in the past. He is also better at self soothing and calming down. He is truly a sweet little boy who enjoys being happy, singing songs to himself, and trying to make us laugh with his goofy sense of humor. I wish I could load some samples of his voice here but I'll try to describe it so you can picture him when I put his words in quotes. He is partially verbal, he does not carry on conversations but is starting to be able to answer concrete questions like "what is your name?" and "what school do you go to?" When he wants something he uses short phrases or tries to come up with a word to describe what he wants. He also quotes books, movies, and tv shows to get his point across. He sounds a lot like Boo from Monsters Inc. when she is chattering and you can almost but not quite understand her. The scene where Boo is singing while using the toilet is very similar to Xander. Also Curious George from the tv series. He loves this show and sounds and acts a lot like that little monkey. There is also a little bit of R2D2 in there. When he is upset or anxious he starts to sound like a Dalek from Doctor Who (we are really big fans of that show). We think that he thinks he has Jedi mind powers which he tried to use on us during the trip, I'll explain that more later!
    All of this is to illustrate that Xander is different than the average 10 year old and how that influences our vacation style and decisions on what we do during the trip. On this vacation we finally decided to try out a program called TSA Cares. We found out about it from a friend who travels frequently with her own autistic son. Up to this point we've toughed out the journey through the airport including security with James always saying "We'll be fine, we can handle it" inevitably Xander becomes really difficult in the security line and hard to hang onto along with the carry on luggage, removing our shoes etc. and sometimes actually tries to crawl away from us or run through a restricted area. After our last trip when a TSA agent spotted us struggling and asked if we needed extra help and I said "yes please!" while James started to say "no, we're fine" and I almost killed him:cautious:, I finally convinced James that we needed to use the TSA Cares program. Basically you call a central number, they contact your airport, and if that airport has a program in place they will contact you to find out what you need. The Portland airport was really helpful. They emailed us with information and also called us that morning. After we checked our bags in, an agent met us and whisked us through security so fast that Xander didn't have a chance to get anxious and we were all able to go to our gate without all the stress and tension that we usually have and everyone was happy!! IMG_6799 (2).JPG IMG_6801 (2).JPG Then Maddie and I went the the airport McDonalds to get everyone some breakfast food (pancakes) for the airplane.
    Just before they started boarding, an announcement was made that there was a family on our flight who had a child that was going to Disney World for his Make-a-Wish vacation. They were asked to board first and everyone at the gate applauded and cheered for them. It was such a sweet moment that got me a little teary eyed and I reminded myself again that everything we deal with that I described above is honestly nothing compared to having a child with a life threatening illness.
    With that, we boarded the plane and we were off to Florida. IMG_6807.JPG IMG_6810 (2).JPG These pictures are at different angles because I played musical chairs with another family so that more of them could sit together and then I could be across the isle from James and the kids!
    Xander was a complete angel during the flight other than demanding that the plane go "up!" and "faster!" when we were waiting to take off, there wasn't an unhappy peep from him. He quietly watched some videos, and played with toys the entire time!
    Next time: We actually get to Florida!
     
  8. fractal

    fractal Premium Member

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    What a great start! TSA cares program was a great decision.

    Loved the Make-a-wish part. Looking forward to more!
     
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  9. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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  10. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    Nope, it didn't work:(. does anyone have advice on how to do this?
     
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  11. fractal

    fractal Premium Member

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    Open up another tab in your browser.

    Go to the first page of the report you want to link to.

    Copy the url (web address top of your browser).

    Go back to the original tab and paste that url in your post.

    Should work.
     
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  12. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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  13. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    Thank you! I've said before that computers and I don't always get along:). I'd wanted to put a link in my first post here but just decided to get the report started.
     
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  14. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    OK, now I'm ready to get this report back on track!

    Just after 3pm Eastern Time, August 20:

    Our plane landed right on schedule, we stopped for bathroom breaks before heading to the airport "monorail". While waiting for James and Xander, Maddie spots the gigantic banner advertising Pandora. It prominently features a Banshee and Maddie is wild about all things that are dragon-like or fantasy creatures. Up to this point I'd been pretty successful keeping her in the dark about Pandora. James and I are not fans of the movie and I was just fine with skipping that area on this trip to focus on other things. I was also worried about it being really crowded there. I did however manage to snag fast passes for us on Flights of Passage somehow, and I wisely decided to keep them "just in case". Maddie immediately started peppering me with questions about Pandora, and once she gets on a topic she doesn't let go! "what are those creatures? Why didn't you like the movie? Can I watch the movie? What's the entire plot of the movie? What rides are in Pandora?" I may have gotten a little irritated at that point:oops:. "Can we just stop talking about Pandora? We won't be going to Animal Kingdom for over a week! Let's just focus on getting our luggage!" (spoiler alert) She continued to bring up Pandora almost daily until our Animal Kingdom day, and then on that day brought it up non stop until we finally got there:facepalm:.
    So we finally get on the "monorail" and arrive in the main airport. Time for a picture with Mickey! IMG_6812 (2).JPG We got our luggage and headed downstairs to check in with the rental car company. I looked longingly at the signs pointing to the Magical Express lines... Oh well, nothing to get sad about, we're on vacation!
    I do love getting rental cars from the Orlando airport, you just have to walk across the street to the parking garage and pick out your car. No extra shuttle to an off site location. The other nice thing that we figured out long ago is that it is easy to get a free booster seat here. They just have them stacked up in the parking garage and do not care if you take one to use. Normally you have to pay $20 a day. Xander is still short enough that we used one for him on this trip. On our big family vacation two years ago, I tried to explain this to my sister but she insisted on bringing her own booster for my niece and gate checking it. When we got to Orlando it had disappeared. We spent and extra hour at the airport while they tried to track down what had happened to it but never did find it. My sister had to file a claim to get it replaced when she got home and was very triumphant when they gave her a voucher for a "free" rental booster for the trip. We were all pretty on edge at this point and I had been dealing with Xander almost melting down at the long wait. I passive aggressively gave her a "look" as I walked over to a stack of booster seats and picked one up for free too:rolleyes:.
    We rented a mini van for this trip because of the amount of luggage and the fact that we'd have to transport Xander's special need stroller a couple of times. Xander called it our "vacation car". We loaded up and were ready to get on the road to our first stop Sapphire Falls at Universal Studios! We managed not to get lost on this leg of the trip and had remembered to bring a roll of quarters for the tolls so we were in pretty good spirits upon arrival.
    IMG_6681.JPG This is the crazy light fixture thing in the lobby, it is really fun to look at in person!
    IMG_6821 (2).JPG The kids waiting while James checked us in.
    We got a room on the 8th floor with a nice view of the lagoon and the boat dock. We eventually used the boat system once we figured it out for getting to Universal.
    I looked through my photos and realized that I didn't take very good pictures of the room. It was the smallest of the three we stayed in, Maddie and I had to share a bed. She not only sleep talks but also kicks! However, the hotel is just over a year old and is one of the least expensive on property and was very pretty. This room had the most comfortable beds of the whole trip and the best pillows. I was really missing those pillows during our four nights at the Beach Club. I loved the Beach Club but those pillows were like cardboard boxes.
    I did take this picture of the entryway/bathroom tile, I really liked it!
    IMG_6582.JPG
    Next: we find our way to Universal City Walk in search of DINNER! (we were really hungry at that point)
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
  15. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    Approx. 5:30pm August 20,
    We got ourselves settled into our first hotel room. James and I unpacked what we would be using for this leg of the trip while the kids quickly claimed their "downtime space"
    . IMG_6824 (2).JPG IMG_6827 (2).JPG Maddie took over the desk for a combo of her favorite pastimes: Playing Pokemon on her 3ds and drawing Pokemon characters. Xander chose a bed and spread out his vacation toys for quality playtime. (Notice his similarity to Curious George as he uses his bare foot as an extra hand.)
    We were all starting to feel pretty hungry as our brains and bodies adjusted to the 3 hour time change. The vacation stroller was waiting for us at bell services right on schedule but we decided to try taking the resort bus from the hotel to Universal City Walk to find a restaurant and to just have Xander walk since we weren't actually going into the parks and didn't want to deal with the stroller on the bus.
    IMG_6829 (2).JPG IMG_6831 (2).JPG Waiting for the resort bus.
    We knew there was a walking path from the Hotel to Universal somewhere as well as boats but were too tired to try figuring that out or to walk so far at that point. This would end up being the only time we used the bus, once we figured out the other systems they turned out to be way more convenient. as we were waiting the sky got darker and it started to rain a little bit. I'd been checking the weather report for Orlando obsessively and it didn't look good for the entire trip so I'd tried to adjust my expectations of perfect sunny weather and to just go with the flow. If we had to wear ponchos for our entire trip so be it! At least we were on vacation!

    *Quick side note on weather, I'll end up bragging later on in this report about how great our luck was with not getting rained on. It really felt like the rain was turned on and off just for us, as if somehow divine intervention was involved. We tried to unplug from news as much as possible during the trip so we didn't hear much about Hurricane Harvey until we got back. I do feel bad about feeling so blessed with the weather on our vacation. We are also crossing our fingers for the new hurricane Irma to bypass Florida and Texas and for everyone to stay safe. We have a lot of family in Florida.

    The bus dropped us off at the main entrance to the Universal complex where we mixed in with everyone coming in from the parking garages to go through security. We then made our way toward this interesting restauraunt.
    IMG_6832 (2).JPG I'd read about this one while researching possible places to eat at Universal. It's about a year old and has a Steampunk theme that's pretty cool. I couldn't find a way to get reservations so we decided to just chance it. The wait time was about 45 minutes, we decided to go for it.
    IMG_6439.JPG Xander's hands are up, feeling the steady raindrops. He was a little frustrated that we wouldn't be eating right away but was in such a good mood about being on vacation that we were able to stall him somewhat easily. The rain started coming down harder as we debated what we would do for 45 minutes. That is when I spotted the guest relations building outside of Islands of Adventure. I had two reasons for needing to go there and had thought I'd have to wait until the morning. The first reason was our park tickets. I had purchased our Universal and Disney tickets through Undercover Tourist back in February just before the latest price hike. We got discounted prices from last years tickets as well as an extra $10 off per person if the Universal tickets were emailed instead of hard copies being sent by mail. It was a great deal and saved us about $300 or so over all. Only problem was, I didn't really want to print out paper tickets that would get destroyed over three days and Universal puts a name on each ticket so it can't be used by someone else. Only my name was showing up on all the tickets. I'd called Universal a few weeks earlier and they assured me the problem could be fixed at guest services and that hard tickets could be printed out for me. The other thing I wanted to do was get Xander signed up for Universal's version of DAS in case he had issues with long line waits.
    You can't walk into the Universal Guest Services building, instead you wait in a line outside and walk up to the first available open window. At least there was a roof over the line to stand under so we would stay dry. It ended up taking FOREVER for our turn. We had to wait the 45 minutes for dinner anyway but it was excruciating. Each person in front of us seemed to take 15-20 minutes for their problem to be solved and one couple was blatantly smoking right in front of a no smoking sign. Sure enough we got the text saying our table was ready just as it was our turn next at the window. James and I got a little annoyed with each other, he wanted all of us just to go to dinner. He was worried they wouldn't seat him and the kids if I wasn't there and Xander was losing his patience quickly. I could see his point but we'd been waiting in this line for 45 minutes and I was envisioning doing it again the next morning! I told him just to go and let me know if they wouldn't seat him, I could run fast and it was just around the corner. The entire time we'd been waiting I had the link to our tickets from Undercover tourist open on my phone and had been refreshing it. Just as I stepped up to the window my screen went dark and I got bumped out of my account. So I'm there fumbling to get it back open and just as I do James calls and bumps me out again. This happens 3 more times so I finally answer and snarl "if you call me one more time while I'm trying to load these tickets...!" He's in a much better mood because they seated him with no problem and he's ordered drinks and the kids are happy. "oops! sorry" he says, he just wanted to let me know that he ordered us both some drinks. I take a deep cleansing breath and calm myself down because we are on vacation and this isn't really a big deal! I get the tickets to load back on my phone and the lady at the counter is able to work magic and take care of everything I asked for in about four minutes. What in the world took so long with everyone in front of us? I zipped over to the restaurant, found my family and the insanely strong drink that James had ordered for me. I forget what it was called and also didn't take a picture of it but it certainly took the edge off. James and I rarely drink alcohol except on vacation and usually only when we're not on vacation with the kids but we made some exceptions on this trip!
    IMG_6833 (2).JPG IMG_6834 (2).JPG IMG_6835 (2).JPG IMG_6838 (2).JPG pictures of everyone but me at dinner, Xander's attention was caught by the screens that were in constant motion with cool Steampunk gears turning. The last is two ice cream shake concoctions that were very good. I didn't get a picture before Maddie started devouring the strawberry one. Once dinner was done we were all relaxed and happy, and guess what? It had magically stopped raining so we decided to try walking back to the resort.
     
  16. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    We found a sign off to the side of the Margaritaville restaurant pointing to the walking path for the resorts and set off. We were happy since this was really close to the Islands of Adventure entrance that we'd be using all three mornings because of the early morning entrance for resort guests. We took note that there was a security screening area for guests coming from the resorts just a little way down the path. This ended up being really convenient all three mornings because there was never a line.
    IMG_6841 (2).JPG as I took this really blurry picture (Xander is trying to cover his ears because of the horns from the boats going by) a couple offered to take a picture of the whole family. IMG_6843 (2).JPG I laughed when I looked at it afterward, I should have stood behind Maddie. At this angle I look like a giant, I am a little taller than James but not that much!
    We continued walking until we came to a sign pointing one way for two of the resorts and another way for two others including ours and went that way because it told us to. Our nice quiet path then led us over a bridge and onto the sidewalk alongside a busy road:confused:. We could see the resort but it looked really far away now. We kept on trudging along and finally got to the front of Sapphire Falls. We decided that this couldn't possibly be the only way to walk to Universal. We had to have missed something. Sure enough when we asked at the front desk, they said it would be a shorter distance if we started at the path by the boat dock in the back of the resort the next morning, so what did we do wrong? I guess we'd have to wait until the next day to find out.
    We all got ready for bed and settled in for the worst night of sleep for the trip. Xander is always so amped up on the first night of any vacation that he has a terrible time falling asleep. We can't really go to sleep ourselves until he does because he might try sneaking out of the hotel room. Once he does fall asleep a marching band can't wake him up so we don't have to worry then. Sometime after midnight he finally passed out after a lot of giggling and chattering. We can always count on him to go to sleep easily starting with night two because he starts getting so worn out from the parks.

    That's finally it for day one of our adventures in Florida!
     
  17. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    While continuing to worry about Irma heading toward Florida, we now have wildfire problems here in the NW to worry about as well:(. On Saturday some jerk teenagers were playing with fireworks at the Columbia Gorge and ended up starting the "Eagle Creek" wildfire that has now consumed 10,000 acres and counting. There have been evacuations of towns in that area and a state of emergency declared in Multnomah county. We are to the west in Washington county so should be fine but the air quality outside is really bad. Portlanders started seeing ash falling yesterday and we woke up to a coating on our own cars today. The sky has been yellow all day and Maddie and I were running last minute school errands while darting in and out of stores through floating ash! We were both having breathing issues and started getting headaches so we were happy to finally hole up indoors. Natural disasters are horrible enough but when something like this is caused by people "goofing off" I just can't stand it!

    OK, time to calm down by trip reporting...

    Monday August 21
    First day at the Universal Studio parks and also eclipse day!
    The alarm was set for 6:15 am with the goal of leaving the hotel room by 7:30 and making it to Islands of Adventure by 8 for early morning entry. I always get up first on park trips since I do hair and makeup which takes extra time, everyone else enjoys the extra sleep and I get the bathroom area to myself for a little bit. On this trip I really streamlined my getting ready time. I had about six inches of hair cut off before the trip in anticipation of the hot and humid weather (I kind of wished I'd cut off more in hindsight but it felt really short at the time!) I also grew out my bangs a bit and pinned them back everyday and gave up on rollers and the curling iron and let Florida have its way with my somewhat naturally wavy hair. I think I impressed James a little with how fast I got out the door each morning!
    Anyway, we did pretty good on our goal that first day. I think we got to the main gates to swipe our tickets at 8:15am.

    We found the path off to the side of the boat dock in the back of the resort and set off on our sunny morning walk.
    IMG_6846 (2).JPG "don't take a picture of us, the sun is in our eyes!"
    IMG_6848 (2).JPG "you mean a picture like this?"
    IMG_6849 (2).JPG "and an awkward selfie like this?"

    I forgot to point out the very welcome return of the special needs vacation stroller. We love and miss you vacation stroller! Xander filled it out a little more this time but it worked and made the whole vacation a lot easier on everyone.
    Along the way we solved the mystery of the unnecessarily long walk the night before. The path from the boat dock led us to one of the other resorts and down a path along its swimming pool area, this led out onto that fork in the road with the Alice in Wonderlandlike sign pointing "this way" and "that way" to the different resorts. Just like last night the path we'd come from just now was the one it pointed to for two resorts that were not ours. The sign that did point to our resort is the one that led to the busy road. We took great delight over the next two days defying that sign and walking down our "secret" path that cut down the walk by 15 minutes!
    Pretty soon we were at the little security spot that was a breeze to get through and were in Islands of Adventure. The early morning only gets you into the Hogsmeade side of Harry Potter, the rest of Universal opens at 9. They lead you down a path toward that area that goes by the Dr. Seuss land. Xander immediately started begging for "Doctor Seusses, Doctor Seusses!" He can read and some of his favorites are Dr. Seuss. We chuckle because he very carefully sounds out the titles as "Doc-tor Seuss-es (Dr. Seuss') The Cat in the Hat". We had to keep promising him we would definitely be back there later.

    But first, Hogsmeade!

    ! IMG_6852 (2).JPG We all dressed in our Hogwarts school finest on this day, Maddie in a Gryffindor themed shirt and Hairbow, because she took the sorting test online and was happily assigned there.
    IMG_6856 (2).JPG
    My sorting test (yes I took one too) put me in Hufflepuff. A bit of a disappointment but Maddie assured me that Hufflepuffs are loyal and kind. So Hufflepuff it was for me.
    IMG_6860 (2).JPG Maddie decided that Xander fit the profile of a Hufflepuff as well so we got him a shirt from that house too. James, who also took the test and turned out to be Hufflepuff(It's almost as good as match.com!) decided to wear a shirt with all the houses just to be cool:cool:.
    IMG_6865 (2).JPG IMG_6869 (2).JPG
    Very very awkward family selfie.

    Time for the first rides of the day! We sent Maddie on her own to the Dragon Challenge coaster. Xander was barely the minimum height for it and I ended up keeping him away from the big coasters at Universal. Partly due to James and I both being reluctant to ride them with him. James rode this one with Maddie two years ago and almost threw out his back. I've had multiple surgeries including my neck that I'll get into in a later post, so I wisely stayed away from this one. Instead we took Xander on the Flight of the Hippogriff. It's short but not exactly easy on the body itself!
    IMG_6872 (2).JPG IMG_6877 (2).JPG Xander waiting in line for Hippogriff. He has gotten more protective of his ears again lately. He is very quick to cover them just in anticipation of a loud noise. As long as he could cover his ears he was very excited to watch the coaster go by while we waited!

    Next time: More Harry Potter and Universal
    If you're only here for Disney, take heart, we eventually get there on Wednesday evening!
     
  18. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    Continuing day 2.
    Still in line with Xander for Hippogriff. James is good at keeping Xander amused while waiting in a line, they can get pretty silly together. Xander loves being tickled (I hate it!) so they started playing tickle bug.
    IMG_6880 (2).JPG James will pretend he's all done and get very serious while Xander giggles and says "More tickle bug please!"
    IMG_6884 (2).JPG
    I just go straight for cuddles
    IMG_6889 (2).JPG It was only a 10 minute wait that early so not bad at all. I offered to sit next to Xander since the seats were pretty small. To James' bafflement the ride attendant had a giant random kid squeeze in with James at the last second! He was not pleased at all and the ride was very uncomfortable for him. He also felt sorry for the poor kid:eek:. My ride wasn't much better, I'm 6ft tall and they really squeeze you in there! There is also this weird net thing that goes over your lap and cuts into your ankles at the bottom. Xander was blissfully happy though, he loves roller coasters. So we rode on it several more times just for him during our time in Universal.
    In fact James got right back on it with him while I met up with Maddie and sent her on her next solo ride "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" since the wait time was still only 20 minutes. This is the ride inside the Hogwarts castle. I went on it with her two years ago and felt nauseous the rest of that day. I was really bummed about it because the ride is really cool for me as a big Harry Potter fan:(. Something about the waving side to side movement of the ride vehicle and the movement on the screens didn't sit well with me and I almost lost it. I had to shut my eyes and take slow breaths for half of the ride time. I warned James that he shouldn't ride it because he's had issues in the past with Star Tours and Soarin. I was sad to miss it this time but didn't want to chance it.
    It's really nice for us now that Maddie is 13 that she can be so independent. Two years ago I let her go on some rides by herself but always stood in the line with her. Now she can be by herself and knows that she just has to wait at the exit for one of us after a ride is done. That freed up our time more to spend with Xander together and Maddie didn't have to miss out on any rides because of her parents falling apart physically:p.
    I wanted James and Xander to get a chance to see the inside of Hogwarts since James missed out last time. I'd heard that they let people wait in the line just to see the castle if they don't want to ride. I talked to a guy (what do you call universal cast members?) at the front of the ride line about it and explained that the adults wouldn't be riding and my son was autistic so couldn't ride without us but we were hoping to still see the castle while waiting in line with our daughter. He said it would be no problem and that with Xander's disability card that he'd been issued we could all get in the express line to see it quicker and that Maddie could get on the ride at the end while the rest of us exited. We decided to wait until the next morning to do this.
    After Maddie's first Castle ride we were starting to feel the heat and realized we were all thirsty. Perfect timing to get our first frozen Butterbeers of the vacation! We were so intent on drinking them as soon as possible that we had wandered out of Hogsmeade to our next destination before I remembered to document the momentous event.
    IMG_6897 (2).JPG Here are Maddie and I, Butter beers in hand in a decidedly non English setting!
    We had put Xander off long enough, it was time to keep our promise to go to Dr. Seuss land.
    IMG_6912 (2).JPG IMG_6446.JPG IMG_6916 (2).JPG James took Xander on the Seuss Trolley Train while Maddie and I finished our butter beers. Then we all got on the Caro-Seuss-el. This took some convincing for Xander, he's had a weird thing for awhile about not riding on any carousel but the ones at Disney(who could blame him right?) But we decided to push a little on this one to encourage him to be more flexible. He agreed to get on after a little bit of fussing then actually enjoyed himself. James regretted his enthusiasm when he saddled up and realized that his creature didn't have much saddle room. He giggled through the pain.
    We went on the Cat in the Hat ride next which is somewhat similar to Winnie the Pooh at Magic Kingdom. Xander loves this one and demanded to go on it many times in the next couple of days. Maddie was good with just one ride on it, she declared the Cat in the Hat's eyes were "creepy". We finished off with the One Fish Two Fish ride.
    IMG_6451.JPG Then James took Xander to the Seuss play area while I walked Maddie over to the Hulk coaster as her reward for being a good sport in Dr. Seuss Land.
     
  19. Figaro Family

    Figaro Family Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    When we got to Hulk the wait time was 30 minutes and they hadn't opened the single rider line yet. Maddie decided she was OK with waiting that long so I sent her in and reminded her to wait for us at the exit. Seuss land was not very far away so I decided to walk back to watch Xander playing and kept an eye on the time to be back at Hulk in a half hour. Xander was having a blast. When he played there two years ago he stayed away from the water area, but was loving it this time!
    IMG_6463.JPG IMG_6469.JPG IMG_6470.JPG IMG_6471.JPG James and I had so much fun watching Xander play! This became a favorite spot and we returned the next two days. A really good place to cool off, we waded through the water too and enjoyed the water spray features.
    IMG_6478.JPG It was almost time to meet up with Maddie so we put our shoes back on and headed toward Hulk.
    IMG_6947 (2).JPG We only had to wait 5 more minutes for her to come out. She was happy with the ride but didn't think it really had much theming. We were all hungry for lunch by then, It was about 11:15am but we'd only had a quick snack breakfast that morning and the butter beers had been walked off. We decided to head back to Hogsmeade and eat at the Three Broomsticks before taking the Hogwarts express to Diagon Alley.

    Tomorrow: Lunch and the second half of day two
     
  20. gdisneyfans

    gdisneyfans Well-Known Member

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    LOL my husband and daughter said the same thing to me on our last trip (it looks like our trips overlapped a bit!). It was getting to the point where they would pose in some weird spot just to be sassy:rolleyes:

    This is so sweet. I love stories like this - I would have been bawling myself. Thanks for sharing.
     
    littleroo and Figaro Family like this.

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