Tag Archives: USA

Our experience: Universal Studios

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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

 

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And we’re back!

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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.