Thursday, June 2, 2016

Universally Awesome! April 2016 Trip Report, End of Pre-Trip and Day 1!

The previous installment can be read HERE.

About one month out from the trip, we realized that we decided on a day that had been changed on the school calendar.  The Friday that we were going to be gone was originally set up as a teacher’s institute day; however, that was changed around to accommodate for a moving day in the fall (while we were on our cruise).  We were still looking at an older calendar when we picked the timeframe, so the boys would be missing a day of school.


Sheri had never been a big fan of the Simpsons television show, but I not-so-subtly had it on the TV more and more as the trip got closer.  After the third or fourth time, she didn’t immediately change the channel, and, though she will never admit it, I caught her laughing quite a bit at the episodes.  The boys also got into the show, as they’re both old enough to get some of the adult humor.  I was looking forward to seeing how the Simpsons was integrated into the parks.

The week leading up to the trip was insanity at its best.  I had 220 papers coming in the day before we were to leave.  I was asked to coach Eric’s 12U team, and we had practices kicking in.  We had a wine pairing dinner the night before we left.  The boys had a scout campout the weekend before we left.  I had a surge of client quotes and bookings, along with a bunch of dining reservations to make for October WDW trips just before this trip, so the agency was hopping!  Oh yeah, there was the regular work stuff, too.

We survived to Thursday…our departure day!

It was definitely hectic!  At the last minute, we decided to test out the PhotoConnect services, which, for those accustomed to Disney World, is akin to their Memory Maker.  I purchased a 3-day package, which got us the Star Card, a free lanyard, and digital copies of all the pictures we’d have taken. I made sure we had everything printed out (the resort/ticket package confirmation, the PhotoConnect confirmation, the boarding passes for the flight, the confirmation numbers for Ace Luxury Transportation, etc.), and, being the anal-retentive type that I am, I had them sequenced in the order in which we would need them (boarding passes, car, hotel, photos).  This was done around 3:00, and Aaron had a Scholastic Bowl Meet at 4, with our flight departing at 7:20.  Tri-Valley won the match by around 4:45.  We brought the cat home from school, said goodbye to the boys and made sure they had enough food to make it to tomorrow when our neighbor would come feed the…..wait…strike that and reverse it.  We all flew home after the scholastic bowl meet (dodging lightning in the process) and changed into whatever Universal stuff we wanted to wear, so long as it was approved by Sheri (I am so dead when she reads this).  I talked with the assistant coaches about a waterlogged field and the option of canceling practice; they agreed, and I fired off a quick message to the team to cancel that afternoon’s practice.  Quick trip to Bloomington airport, dropped off the bag, and BOOM…we were on our way!

The storms missed us, and we were off!

(from Aaron)

The goal was to grade as many papers as possible on the flight down there.  I got seated next to some high school girls heading down for a cheerleading competition at Disney…I don’t think I have ever seen as many duck-faced selfies and snapchats taken before!  Somehow, I managed to grade around 50-60 papers; there was definitely a beer ordered mid-flight, though!  I should have asked Aaron to see if he wanted to switch seats so he could try flirting with them.

As we started our approach into Sanford, I hoped and prayed that everything would work out with the car service.  This was the first time I had used one, let alone book one…as soon as we screeched to a halt and exited the active runway, I turned the phone on, and voila…there was a text waiting for me from the driver.


Off the plane…quick walk out of the secure area, and down the escalators…there was our driver, holding the sign I was looking for!  We did our introductions and then walked over to the baggage claim area.  We knew we had a few minutes, so we did a quick bathroom break and then got in position to grab our luggage, which had just started coming out.

With bags in hand, we walked about 200 yards across the street over to the car rental area of Sanford (I LOVE this airport!) and got loaded into a nice SUV – I think it was an Expedition or a Suburban (it was dark, okay?!).  We were on our way in no time and heading west towards I-4.  We had a nice conversation with our driver, who also talked to us about the Orlando International Airport expansion, All Aboard Florida, and Brightline, which all eventually will create a rail system between Orlando, West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami.  I’ll admit that I was geeking out a little bit during this talk.

After what seemed like a much shorter trip than when I drive, we were off of I-4 and soon onto Major Boulevard.  I’ll admit that we all were kind of like kids in a candy store, taking it all in.  There was a right onto Universal Boulevard, followed by a quick right to Portofino Bay Road…

…and then we saw our resort…


All of us forgot to get a picture.

We pulled up to the Porte Cochere (Italian for “place to pull your car up to unload”) (or something like that) right at 11:30…less than one hour from the wheels touching down at Sanford.  Yeah, not bad!

We tipped our driver an extra amount and entered Portofino Bay.


We walked around for a minute just to look around, and I hopped into the check-in lane.  4 minutes later, we had our keys in-hand, and we made our way to the Express Pass kiosks.

Okay…entering travel planner mode here to help all you potential first-timers with this.  To get your Express Pass cards, you’ll need to have your room key handy.  You enter your room key, and it will set you up to have your picture taken.  Depending on how tall/short you are and how close/far away you are from the kiosk, you might have to take the picture a couple of times to make sure you’re looking mahvelous.  Don’t fret, though, because it’s a grayscale pic.  Once the picture is taken, the kiosk drops your pass, and you’re good to go for your entire stay!  It only took a couple of minutes for all four of us to have them in-hand.

This isn’t even a piazza…this is an area close to the Express Pass kiosks!

We were in the East wing on the 3rd floor, facing the actual bay.  To get there, we took the elevators down to the first level and made our way out to the Harbor PiazzHOLY MOLY THIS IS AWESOME!!!!

All of us just took in in and again forgot to grab a picture…here’s a different angle from another night from our room…it is simply breath-taking!

We walked past an Italian Gelateria (and a Starbucks) to the east wing entrance and hopped on the elevator to our floor.  We opened our door (eventually…it was HEAVY) and…

#Thud (again)

Sheri worked on unpacking, while the boys “helped”.  I took pics of the confirmations and headed back to the lobby to try printing out our tickets.  It took a minute to find the ticket kiosk; once I found it, I noticed that it was out of order.  Oh well…looks like we’ll just have to print them out at the park entrance.

After heading back to the room (still awestruck by the views), we finished unpacking and told the boys that, since it was after midnight, they should probably get to be…

…okay then.  Looks like they were a bit tired LOL.

Bed-time for us, too!  We tossed on one of the resort channels, turned on the sleep timer, and drifted off.

Tomorrow…lots of new experiences await for the Mushfam!  You can read about it HERE.


Mare said...

Can't wait to hear more about your adventure!

Heather said...

And I thought I was the only one to put confirmations in order of when they'll be needed...