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Unread 20 Nov 18, 01:22 AM  
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#1
Eccle
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Join Date: Nov 10
The Fifth Time of Firsts - August 2019 Pre Trip Report

After our last trip earlier this year we are now back planning again for next August!

A brief introduction...

Me - Emma, chief trip planner, I feel like I should have a degree in Disney World by now!
David - we had our first Disney experience at Disneyland in California in 2008, when we decided we may as well do a day as part of a California road trip. We both loved it, and have both had 4 trips to Florida, 2 to California and one to Disneyland Paris.

We have three boys:
Alex, 10 - this will also be his 5th trip. He is a big Stitch fan, and is increasingly brave with rides


Sebastian, 7 - he will be 8 just before our next trip, his 4th. He has a diverse range of interests from Princesses to superheroes, Ariel being a particular favourite of his (very appropriately!)


Barnaby, 2 - he will be 3.5 on our next trip, his 2nd. Currently obsessed with Zootropolis and Peppa Pig, but it will probably be something else by next year!



Our most recent trip was in February, when we went with our friends, which was a brilliant trip. On all four of our trips we have stayed in villas, three times in Windsor Hills. We have also never been to Universal Orlando as we felt the boys weren't old enough or brave enough to be worth it, though David and I spent a day at Universal Hollywood.

After our last trip, we were both really keen to go back again, and the older two are now desperate to do Universal as they are into Harry Potter. We decided on August to fit with school holidays, we have been once before at the end of August in 2015, and whilst I didn't love the heat and humidity, it seemed the best option overall.

I really wanted to try staying on site, and this seemed a sensible option if we wanted to do any Disney meals, as with Alex now classed as an adult and Barnaby over 3, they would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. Having always thought I would want the Contemporary, on our last trip I visited the Boardwalk for the first time and loved the area, so based on that and having read about Stormalong Bay which I thought the boys would love, we settled on Beach Club. I did toy with Caribbean Beach as a cheaper option, but decided if we were going to be onsite, it would also be really good to have two parks in walking distance.



As we didn't think we would survive a whole holiday in the same room, and we love having a villa too, we decided to split our stay, and I booked 5 nights at Beach Club when free dining was released.

More to follow!
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Unread 21 Nov 18, 01:07 AM  
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#2
Eccle
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As we were still more than a year from the trip, flights weren't out so I didn't want to completely finalise dates for the whole trip until we knew flight prices, but my hope was to have a few nights at Universal before our Beach Club stay, and a villa stay after it.

It was tempting to go back to the villa we had stayed in on our two previous trips, but as it is a 6 bed it is bigger than we needed for just the 5 of us, so it made sense to save some money and go with somewhere a bit smaller. We wanted Windsor Hills again as we know and like it, and its location, plus as we were leaving this year Sebastian decided to announce he was very upset we hadn't been to the big play area there, so I don't think he'd forgive us for not going back so he can go to the play area!

After a lot of research I found a nice looking 4 bed villa, and booked that through the owners, with the dates fitting so we would land home on the day before the start of the school year.

After flights started to come out I did a lot of price watching. On our most recent trip we flew into Tampa and having found it a good experience compared to Orlando it was our preference to fly there again unless Orlando was a much better price. We have flown indirect once, but had been able to do it from Birmingham reducing driving time in this country, but as the Birmingham to Newark flights have gone doing indirect wasn't as appealing if we had to drive to London too, particularly with Barnaby's age to consider.

I found flights with BA to Tampa at a price we could tolerate for direct flights in summer holidays, and by coming back a day later than we originally planned we could do Premium Economy on the return. This does mean that we are gambling on a teacher training day at both schools on the Monday, but in my experience they always have at least one and usually two, so hopefully this will be the case again (I wish they'd announce teacher training dates further ahead!). Our dates also now gave us 4 nights before our Beach Club reservation.
We booked as a flydrive so only had to pay a deposit. I did debate cancelling and rebooking when BA had the very good indirect prices to Tampa, but although it was very tempting, we stuck with our original booking for the convenience of direct and the Premium return.

We now needed to decide what to do with the extra 4 nights at the start. I definitely wanted at least one night at a Universal hotel for express passes. I looked at various options, some involving switching hotels in that time, but eventually went with Portofino Bay Club level. I found a good price for 4 nights there with Travelbag, and although a standard room at RPR or HRH would have been a bit less, the PBH club rooms seem to be quite a bit bigger, and hopefully the club room food will mean we don't spend too much on eating at Universal.


So we have ended up with 18 nights, our first trip to Universal (which I am really excited about), our first onsite Disney stay, and a different villa to try

Edited at 05:50 PM.
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Unread 21 Nov 18, 01:19 AM  
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Eccle
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In other plans, I have had a request from the boys to do the Marvel character dining at Universal. I'm not completely sure if this will be worth it or not, but I might give in on that (I wish Alex was 9 not 10!)

I am also very tempted by MNSSHP as we haven't had the opportunity to do it before, even if halloween in August is a bit premature. I am a little worried about whether it will be too late for Barnaby to cope with

I am just beginning to think about possible ADRs. I could easily use twice the credits that we have! At the moment, in consultation with the boys, my current thoughts are:
Chef Mickey brunch - this was unanimously a must do as we have been on every trip, mainly for dinner but brunch on our last trip worked well for the mix of foods.
Snow White character dining - I will see what the reviews are on this, but both the older two were keen to try it as something new
Garden Grill lunch or dinner - one I have wanted to try for Chip and Dale, and have generally heard good reviews of
Hollywood and Vine Fantasmic meal - this seems a good choice for the reserved seating, though I am conscious of a lot of character overlap
Tony's Parade Package - we rarely manage to work things to see the parade, and the viewing area for this looks great
Be Our Guest breakfast - Sebastian the Beauty and the Beast fan is desperate to go here, and I would hope for an early reservation

The list above could well change, others I would have liked are Crystal Palace, Yachtsman Steakhouse, La Hacienda, Trattoria Al Forno, Sanaa and Boma breakfast
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Unread 24 Nov 18, 10:03 AM  
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Goldia
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This sounds like it is going to be an awesome trip! I can definitely vouch for Garden Grill I love it!

The beach club looks like an amazing resort I hope you enjoy your onsite stay. We're off to POFQ next summer and are tagging on 3 days at the end for universal so we may see you around!

Looking forward to seeing what you decide for ADRs...I also have a massive list and am having trouble narrowing down the choices.
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Unread 24 Nov 18, 06:19 PM  
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Eccle
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Originally Posted by Goldia View Post
This sounds like it is going to be an awesome trip! I can definitely vouch for Garden Grill I love it!

The beach club looks like an amazing resort I hope you enjoy your onsite stay. We're off to POFQ next summer and are tagging on 3 days at the end for universal so we may see you around!

Looking forward to seeing what you decide for ADRs...I also have a massive list and am having trouble narrowing down the choices.
I hope so, I'm excited about it already!

Good to know you like Garden Grill, I only ever see good things about it, and as we like Living with the Land I like the location too. I'm torn on ADRs between things the boys would like and what has more adult appeal, but I suspect character dining will win! In many ways Chef Mickey would be the most logical to swap for something else on location and character overlap, but I'm not sure we can not do it after having been every trip!

Hope you can manage to narrow yours down too
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Unread 10 Jan 19, 05:59 PM  
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#6
Eccle
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We can now say that we're going this year! With the ADR date rolling closer I'm now tying myself in knots over what to book. I think I am dropping Hollywood and Vine from my list, as whilst the Fantasmic seating would be good, we would probably be better doing the late nights further on in the holiday. Probable top of my list instead is a late breakfast at Tusker House (hopefully then catching some of the lunch food too). But I am also still toying with Crystal Palace, mainly for Eeyore!

I also can't decide whether to do Tonys or not. So hard to decide!

Offsite meals will almost certainly include Olive Garden, Chilis, Millers, Sweet Tomatoes and Outback (which we had to miss on our last trip as one of our friends is vegetarian, and their menu lacked any meat free mains!). Most of those meals will probably cost less than our tips on the onsite meals

I also have a Landrys card from our 2015 trip, and as my birthday is in august I will get $25 credit on it, not sure whether to use this at Bubba Gump whilst we're at universal, or to go to TRex or Rainforest Cafe. We enjoyed TRex when we went before, but getting dragged into Build a Dino made it an expensive meal!

Edited at 06:05 PM.
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Unread 11 Jan 19, 03:56 PM  
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Sounds like an awesome trip. I liked the look of the Portofino Bay area when we got lost heading out from HRH in October
I really think the Club Room will be a good idea and be good value for the 5 of you. Your kids will love Universal. Makes sure you do the water rides for a guaranteed cool down
BC is really nice. We joined touring plans pretty much just for the room request option and got pretty much exactly where we asked for. I have read lots of mixed reports on how successful they are though.
I feel for you trying to narrow down the ADR list. We really enjoyed Tusker House. Haven't done Crystal Palace though. Now that there isn't the early entry benefit with the Crystal Palace breakfast I would recommend having a look at 1900PF for breakfast. We loved it and was probably one of our favourite meals. We met Eeyore there too but I don't think he is guaranteed to be there. ]
Windsor Hills is somewhere we would like to try in the future.

Looking forward to following along with you trip report
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Unread 13 Jan 19, 04:05 PM  
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Eccle
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Originally Posted by Milpston View Post
Sounds like an awesome trip. I liked the look of the Portofino Bay area when we got lost heading out from HRH in October
I really think the Club Room will be a good idea and be good value for the 5 of you. Your kids will love Universal. Makes sure you do the water rides for a guaranteed cool down
BC is really nice. We joined touring plans pretty much just for the room request option and got pretty much exactly where we asked for. I have read lots of mixed reports on how successful they are though.
I feel for you trying to narrow down the ADR list. We really enjoyed Tusker House. Haven't done Crystal Palace though. Now that there isn't the early entry benefit with the Crystal Palace breakfast I would recommend having a look at 1900PF for breakfast. We loved it and was probably one of our favourite meals. We met Eeyore there too but I don't think he is guaranteed to be there. ]
Windsor Hills is somewhere we would like to try in the future.

Looking forward to following along with you trip report
Yes at the moment I'm glad we decided to go with the club option, it wasn't much more and I'm thinking the breakfast alone will be worth it. I'm really excited about Universal, though I might leave David to go on the water riders with the boys

I am on Touring plans and was going to do a room request at some point, we just have a standard room, but I'd love one that had a partial view

I'll have another look at 1900 Park Fayre, I always hear good things about it, but I'd ruled it out as I wasn't sure character wise the boys would be as interested.

I really like Windsor Hills, and having stayed there a few times we feel like we know where we're going now! Our first trip we stayed in Emerald Isle so have always been in a similar area.
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