Tag Archives: Florida

Our experience: SeaWorld


The day we visited SeaWorld was sunny and hot, really hot. I did a bit of the homework and checked what shows were available, their locations and times, to try and plan a bit more the day. It worked kinda ok, except that we arrived there a bit later than planned and ended up changing the order of the shows a little.

The park was incredibly empty park, especially comparing to Universal Studios, which we visited a couple of days before, and it made us wonder if it was all the bad publicity that they had received in the past months/years, or if it is just because there is not that much to see and do.

The shows that we went to were:

Pets Ahoy – a presentation with pets (cats, dogs, mice, geese, pigs…). Seemed so random at SeWorld, but the girls liked it.

Pets Ahoy, cute show. Apparently these are all animals that SeaWorld rescued.

One Ocean – that’s the “famous” killer whales presentation. 25 years ago, they made the whales do way more things than now. Also, there was no trainers swimming with the whales this time. There is also an opening presentation talking about SeaWorld’s work rescuing animals, how important it is to respect the environment, etc. (*I thought it was part of One Ocean, but it’s a different “show”, just at the same place and just before the whales one. It’s called Ocean Discovery and it only happened at 11am, right the time that we were there). All full of good intentions, but the kids got extremely bored and didn’t enjoy the show that much. Laura was actually pretty annoyed that we were in the “wet area” and not a single drop of water came to us. I tried to explain to her that the whole thing wasn’t right, that we shouldn’t make wild animals do these things, that whales should never live in a tiny tank, that they belong in the ocean, etc, but she couldn’t care less about the whole thing. She just wasn’t impressed at all. I’m hoping it is a good thing, that she understands that there is no fun in seeing poor whales obeying a bunch of people in uniforms like they were in a circus.

The Orca shows are much low key now, after all the incidents in the past with trainers, etc. Amazing creatures, but so sad to see them performing shows like they are… pets.

Clyde & Seamore’s Sea Lion High – cute but a bit boring. Clyde and Seamore are two sea lions – from the size of it, I’m guessing they are like… teenagers? At the end, there was a giant one, who seemed VERY old. The kids didn’t enjoy it at all… they were more interested in eating popcorn than actually looking at what the poor sea lions were doing. Again, another tantrum from Laura for not being at the very front and getting wet.

Blue Horizons – we sat in the first row, Laura, Beatrice and I, so we could get proper wet. Unfortunately the view is not the best. Laura was really impressed with the show. Not so much with the dolphins – although she liked how agile and fast they were – but more with the acrobats. And of course, she was very pleased to get soaking wet. Beatrice hated and cried half way through and went to her father at the top.

Unlike the orca show, here the trainers interact a lot with the dolphins. It’s such a dynamic show and makes me feel guilty for loving it. Dolphins are adorable creatures and you can’t help but wish you could have one as a pet. Just wish, because it’s illegal (and wrong) to have one, ok? I saw very few in the wild; they are even better in their natural habitat!


Before the show, waiting and waiting. This hair is not wet from the sea water but from sweat. It was boiling hot and we were all sticky.


Changing positions, so I could protect them both from the splashes (they don’t like water on their faces, especially salty water)


Proper splashed, although I don’t think it’s possible to see how wet Laura’s tee was in this photo.


All wet – now from the show – and a bit happier after she changed clothes.

We missed all the animal talks and encounters, although we’ve seen the dolphins in the nursery and sharks and sting rays in a tank. Also, because we were so focussed on the shows, we missed some of the other attractions, such as the Antartica ride (40 min queues for the ride and 30 minutes non-ride), Turtle Trek, Wild Artic or Sky Tower. Nobody wanted to go to the roller coasters (although one of the boys went to Manta on his own). Both the other mum and I went to Journey to Atlantis, a water ride with a drop or two. They advertised it as you getting really wet, but it was no more than a few drops. The queue for this one was huge and so so slow… I think we were there for an hour.

The Dolphin Cove: we arrived there a few minutes too late and the food had finished. This was probably one of the encounters that we all felt sorry for missing. (I did feed and touch them 25 years ago, so I’m not THAT sorry).

The new roller coaster claims to be Orlando’s fastest, tallest and longest roller coaster. Have fun those who enjoy it; I’m not a roller coaster fan for nearly 10 years now.

We took the kids to Shamu Harbor and they finally started enjoying themselves for good. Until then, I had to listen to Laura moaning that “this trip is so boring, we only get to go where you want to go”. And we were thinking that we were planning a nice day for them… Finally it all changed at the kids area, and they went to the roller coaster a few times, a boat/slide thingy that both Laura and Beatrice loved, an elevator that drops and a few other rides. I went with Beatrice to other two baby-ish rides – a train and one of those “mad tea party” type of spinning cups, while the bigger girls went to the roller coaster, just because of height restrictions. Later we found out that they weren’t checking it at all. She ended up going to two other rides with height restrictions and nobody checked. There was little to no queues, which was brilliant.


The free fall elevator for kids. Check out Beatrice’s size on the thing.


Spinning round and round…


With a new friend at the choo-choo-train.


Spinning and going high up in the sky. That thing was tiny and really hard for an adult to squeeze in. Luckily I’m short, but the other couple… poor them.



Beatrice enjoying the rocking-spinning boat, she went at least 3 times.


The beautiful sunset at the end of a long and hot day!

So the day started bad, with three very moody and impatient girls, not happy about anything, but ended up brilliantly, with them having so much fun at the kids rides. Absolutely no need for the animal shows, which makes you wonder whether it is even worth going there again, considering that we didn’t even bother with the adults rides.


Our experience: Universal Studios


First time I went to Florida, Universal Studios didn’t even exist (I went in January 1990, it opened in June of that year), so I had no idea what to expect of this park. I read on a few blogs that Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures had very few things for small kids to do. Unfortunately I read those posts after getting the tickets. Anyhoo, having this info helped planned what to do there. One thing that I wasn’t prepared for was getting ill the night before going to the park. My theory is that I overate and ate the wrong stuff (which I’m not used to), so I spent the whole night in the bathroom and the following day I was miserable. But, hey, it was our first park and we were all excited, so let’s just pretend that nothing happened.

We started with Islands of Adventure, just because… we had a look at the map and saw that half of the park wasn’t worth even exploring with them because they couldn’t do anything. We went right, starting with Seuss Landing.

The Dr. Seuss area seemed to be designed for small kids but even some of the silly rides won’t take small children like Beatrice (minimum height: 40″). While Mr. C took Laura on the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, I went with Beatrice to the Caro-Seuss-El (carroussel in normal spelling). She loved it and wanted to go again and again. We also went to If I Ran A Zoo, which is a play area for very small children. She was ok there, but I got bored. We didn’t go to a couple of others, that seemed nice (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and The Cat in the Hat) because the queues were really long.

From there, we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Again, nothing much that we could do and we got stuck in a discussion of what to do: explore the area or get on the train to “London”, which took us to Universal Studios. We couldn’t decide and because the train was going out in 15 minutes, we decided to go. The kids didn’t have a clue who Happy Potter was, so it would have been fun for us, not them. Two attractions I wanted to go, though: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippograph (which was ok for kids 36″ or above, which I think is good for Beatrice). The Hogwarts Express was fund for them. Laura’s friend got scared, because it is loud and dark, but overall it was good fun for all of us. Laura got annoyed that we were back in London. 🙂

At Universal Studios we did very little. The queues were massive and it took us way too long to get anywhere. Our first stop was the Kang & Kodo’s Twirl ‘n Hurl, a bit boring for me (and I was sick of going round and round), but the girls seemed ok with it. We looked at the Simpsons Ride, but the wait was too long and I overheard a couple of girls saying it wasn’t worth for the wait. From there we managed to miss the Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone and went to see Shrek 4D instead, with a 50 minute long queue. It was good fun but again, the girls were sitting on the parents lap and were scared in some parts. The wait for the Despicable Me ride, just across the road from Shrek, was over 95 minute long. We weren’t in the mood for massive queues and, by the time left the Shrek experience, it was pissing down with rain. The boys wanted to go on the Rip Ride Rock It ride but it closed due to bad weather. So by then we were ready to leave and go home. Not without taking some pics with Scooby and friends – they were really nice.

In summary:

I feel like I can rate this one. It seems like a good park for older kids, teenagers and even adults, but when you have small kids that have absolutely zero patience for queues, it is not great. And because I was poorly, I wasn’t in the mood for walking a lot, I didn’t want to eat much (although was feeling weak) and all I wanted was to sleep.

The parks were packed. Also, the fact that you have two parks in one, one day is not enough to see the best things. There were plenty of interesting things to do, but not enough time.

I won’t go back there until Beatrice is big enough for most of the rides.

Meeting the Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2


Laura was in a bad mood here and didn’t want to pose for pictures


We met Scooby & friends just before getting to Shrek 4D experience and before it started pouring down with rain


The view to London, from the Simpsons ride


More of London


And we’re back!


It’s been almost a week since we returned from holidays, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I managed to unpack our last luggage and wash the last holidays clothes.

The holidays were great and intense, we got back exhausted and suffering from mild jet-lag and the girls are nearly fully recovered. Going back to the routine was (is being) a bit harder than anticipated, because we had a few changes just after the holidays. To start with, Laura doesn’t go to breakfast club or after school club anymore, so we are getting used to different things in the morning and afternoon. Anyway, we will get there soon.

I am in the process of going through all the photos and sorting what to publish or not, so soon a bunch of Disney/Florida related posts. In the meantime, this is just to leave main details of our trip, even if for my future reference (I tend to forget where I went, what I did, where I stayed…).

We had a quick stop as our flight was to and from Miami. Orlando was way too expensive!! We booked the flight via an agency called Omegaflightstore.com, after a good research. It was expensive but the cheapest option for the dates we wanted. Note to self: Easter break is a very expensive time to fly around Europe and USA because it’s spring break and everyone is on holidays.

Our flight was British Airways, flown by American Airlines. With all due respect to the Americans and all the great things they have, airlines are not one of them. American Airlines suck big time and I don’t think it will ever change. Three days before flying, the agency contacted us saying that the airline (BA) had cancelled our flight and we – passengers – had to contact them to sort it out. So we booked with an agency, the airline kicks us out of the flight and it is our problem. Good. Mr. C was on one line with BA and I was on another with the agency. BA saying it was the agency’s fault (for not reissuing another eticket, when the flight time was changed in December), the agency saying that it was BA’s fault, because they did everything they had to. The agency had indeed sent us a new etickets, which we told BA and of course, BA realised that somebody their end screwed up. And this is where AA comes to play. American Airlines simply cancelled the flight and didn’t tell anybody or tried to sort the problem. An hour later, lots of panic, several private messages with BA on Twitter, hubby on hold on the phone, BA finally put us on another flight, two hours later. At least we were going. The agency told us that we could ask for compensation at the airport, but at the time we didn’t understand what they meant. At the airport, finally the penny dropped. American had “cancelled” several flights (overbooked them and had to kick passengers out of the flights) and was giving $800 for those who volunteered to go on a different flight. The thing is: they didn’t tell us that – they acted like it was all normal and let’s move on. When we asked them about the $800 compensation (there was a paper on the check in desk), the lady then told us to go to customer service and ask about it. We were tired, late to go through security but we decided not to go until this was sorted. So now we are the “happy” owners of $800 voucher to spend on a trip flying American Airlines. Yay…

In Miami, we stayed in a one bedroom flat in Mare Azur by Grand Bay as we arrived late and didn’t want to drive to Orlando on the same day. The apartment was really good, spacious (now this is something I am so jealous of the Americans: space), well equipped, great view, free wifi and, although not by the beach, it was 20 min drive to one. Parking is available at $15/day.

Speaking of parking, the car we rented had to be upgraded due to the amount of luggages (and people) we had. We rented via easycars.com but the provider was Alamo. The car was really good (it was almost like climbing a hill to get to it, but I’m short, my bad) but consumed a lot of petrol. Luckily, big cars are common in the US and it was easy to park it everywhere. Something like that in the UK wouldn’t even get through some roads.

I need one of those! Washing machine and tumble dryer occupying minimum space.


Swimming pool at Mare Azur. We didn’t use it, but the water was nice and warm.


The “little” kitchen that had it all. The microwave is huge compare to ours. The fridge/freezer too.


The view of our flat in Miami (Mare Azur)

The view… I could get used to that every morning.


Flat in Mare Azur (living room)

There was a king size bed in the bedroom and a sofa-bed in the living room.


Car in Florida

Our car during our holidays


She was very comfy at the back (3rd row)

Our accommodation in Kissimmee was great too. We rented a four-bedroom house with private swimming pool that we only used one day. The house was just next door to Medieval Times, but we didn’t go to this one. The house was arranged by a friend Luciana Misura, who is a Disney travel agent in the US (she is Brazilian, but fluent in English) and sorted out most of our trip. She didn’t charge anything to suggest an itinerary, book the tickets and the house, and it was really good to go via her as her suggestions about busiest park days, etc, were spot on. She also booked the character lunches at Hollywood Studios and Epcot Centre for us, but we were late to decide what to do and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique was full for the days we were there.

We had a minor incident with the house and the emergency numbers – one of the bedrooms door was locked from the inside and the couple that was sleeping there couldn’t get in. All their things, money, Disney passes, clothes, etc, were in there, so it wasn’t like they could leave it to the next day. We called the emergency number but they didn’t show up at all – we saw a missed called at 11am and we guess it was from them. In the end, we had to go to Walmart to get some tools to open the room. This was in the evening and we had a late night because of that. All sorted though and the agency was actually good at sorting other things for us, like getting a toaster and a frying pan that we didn’t have, and – oh dear, I see a pattern here – unlock the main door that we managed to lock from the inside. The later was easier to sort, because we were ready to go to the parks and had all our stuff (except for the other family’s Disney card) with us. When we returned home, it was all sorted for us. So, despite the issue we had, I do recommend the place (Bella Vida Resort) and would stay there again. I must say that we didn’t use any of their facilities, like common swimming pool, gym, etc.

Our private pool, protected by net. Now this was something that surprised me – all the houses that we saw had this net at the back. I though it was to keep alligators away, but it’s just for insects. 🙂


By night


The kitchen-living area. Did I mention that I could easily live here?


From the kitchen…. 

Don’t forget:

Travel insurance – this is a must. The prices will depend on what you choose and the cover. We mainly took for medical costs. We used Insure and go, but I can’t really recommend it or not.

ESTA visa if you are British – British citizen don’t need to apply for visas to enter in the US, but they need to have a valid ESTA. It costs $14 per person (including kids) and you will need to apply at least 72 hours before your trip. Once you have it, it’s valid for a couple of years.

Planning holidays and trips


I love going on holidays, but don’t like planning the trips at all. I don’t mind to research bit, read about places and choose the destination, but find it all very complicated to check logistics, compare prices, check offers, select accommodation. Especially because these days there are so many options that we can just spend several days looking and checking and looking again. Then you read the reviews and some are useful, some add even more confusion to our heads.

Holidays with kids can be pretty simple in a way: select a beach destination, find a accommodation with a swimming pool and that’s it. In theory, at least. This year we decided to change the strategy – but not much – and go to Disneyworld in Florida. We honestly thought it was just a matter of booking flights, finding accommodation, getting the tickets to the parks and that was it. I went to Disneyworld more than 25 years ago, in January, way before this climate change thing messed up the whole holiday planning. January was nice and warm, fresh I would say. There were queues, but nothing bizarre. We could see, do and go to most of the things we wanted, without too much hassle.

Now it seems like we are going to war, with so many strategies behind every move. You need to plan the days you should go to each park, as some are less busy than others, plan all the activities beforehand, so you don’t waste time in unnecessary queues, plan the meals, restaurantes, meet and greets. There is an app to help you with it. There are billions of blogs giving detailed information and planning tips. You have to book things in advance – sometimes 6 months ahead!, you need to have an idea of what attractions you want to go to. Of course, no one forces you, but without this careful planning, your trip can be ruined.

We are actually using the service of a travel agent to organize the trip. We booked the flights, the car and the insurance and she has sorted the accommodation and the itinerary + park tickets for us. She also has a very comprehensive blog (in Portuguese) about travel, including lots and lots of information on Disney, and has been several times to Orlando, with and without kids. So we are kind of taking her lead. Even small things like “this particular attraction might not be great for young kids”, despite me really wanting to go, is taking into account. The trip is for the kids and adults have a way around it (using single rider and child swap queue schemes, for example, that I only got to know about this week, reading her blog).

I will confess that after this whole experience, I would like to go again, another time, when it is less busy, for shorter period and maybe to stay in the park resorts. Or maybe not, maybe Disney will be ticked from our list for a few years, until they are old enough to go to every single ride and be able to walk for 10-12 hours without wanting us to carry them.

More to come on this trip soon.

10 places I want to go with the kids


The list has easy to go and affordable destinations (well, at least 7 ou 8 of them) when travelling from Europe. Of course the real list is way longer than that, but these are the places I would like to go NOW and require very little planning. 😉

1) Sardinia: we were there in June 2009, just before I got pregnant. We flew to Olbia in the Northeast and stayed in Cala Gonone (East coast). We had a car for the week we were there and went kayaking one day, which was really fun and I would like to try again. A week is not enough to fully enjoy the island. Italy is such a friendly place to take kids (Italians love their children) that it only makes sense to go there again with the girls (not sure about trekking and kayaking though).



2) Cyprus: we were there with Laura in June 2012, and stayed in Protaras, on the southeast coast. The closest beach to our flat was Fig Tree beach, which was lovely for kids and adults. Since we had a car for the week, we managed to drive around a bit, but we stayed mostly near the apartment. I would try to go in April or May, as I found June very hot (it’s worse in July/August), and I would also like to visit Northern Cyprus.

Fig Tree Beach, Cyprus

Fig Tree Beach, Cyprus

3) Greece: we’ve only been there once, to Athens and Sifnos. There’s so much more to see and do. I would try to avoid the most popular ones and would prefer to go in April/May or September. We went in July/August and it was VERY hot. Nothing against, but the sun wasn’t really appropriate for children.

Greece, some beach I would like to go

Greece, some beach I would like to go (I bet this is not the real colour though). Photo credit: http://www.charterworld.com

4) Florida: I went only once, when I was 12. I think it’s the perfect place to enjoy beaches and parks; in the right season the weather can be beautiful and the girls would never get bored (we had a few moments when Laura didn’t want to go to the beach anymore, so having other kids-friendly options around is always good).

Disney is just ONE of the places in Florida to visit. Photo credit: Disney World website

Disney is just ONE of the places in Florida to visit. Photo credit: Disney World website

5) Northeast of Brazil. We will got to Salvador in January and I hope it will be a good experience. I have been to a few places and loved them all, but it will be my first time in Bahia (at least as an experience I can remember).

Porto de Galinhas, PE

Calhetas Beach, PE

6) Italy. Because it’s Italy. I want to go everywhere, anywhere, always!

An afternoon view in Verona, Italy

An afternoon view in Verona, Italy

7) Lapland, northern Finland. At least until they believe in Santa Claus. I think it would be a great trip. Actually, I would say that Scandinavia is a great region to visit with kids. My impression is that, as with Italians, the scandi love their children and there are loads to do with them in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. It could be just an impression – we visited Norway and Copenhagen and there was nothing screaming BRING YOUR KIDS, but there was this kids-friendly thing in the air.

Lapland; isn't it beautiful? Photo credit: Nordic Visitor Finland website

Lapland; isn’t it beautiful? Photo credit: Nordic Visitor Finland website

8) Guernsey/Jersey. I’m dying to visit those islands; I’ve seen some pretty great pictures and they are not far, it’s British territory (although next door to France), it’s easy access (we can go either by air or sea) and they are tiny, so in a week should be possible to visit most/all of it. Oh, I mean one week each, not both.

Guernsey. Photo credit: Walking Britain website

Guernsey. Photo credit: Walking Britain website

9) Berlin. Loads of friends say the most amazing things about Berlin. Not sure how interesting it is for a pre-schooler, but I’m sure we can fin something she will enjoy doing.

Berlin. Photo credit: www.trueberlin.com

Berlin. Photo credit: http://www.trueberlin.com

10) Australia. This wouldn’t be my list if Australia wasn’t in it. I couldn’t care less if the girls or Mr. C would enjoy a trip to Australia; this is a totally personal destination. 😉