On The Road with Rosalyn: Orlando, FL! GUEST POST!
One of the things we’re most proud of at Social Butterfly Express is our personal connection to travel. SBE grew from the personal passion for travel of Founder and Lead Travel Consultant Rosalyn Cooper, combined with her planning savvy, and she is constantly on the road scouting locations for her destination wedding couples, honeymoons, and even large group trips!
Our "On the Road with Rosalyn!" series chronicles Rosalyn’s personal and professional travels, giving you the scoop on the best locations, venues, and excursions. And now, we're excited to announce our collaboration with guest blog contributors - friends and colleagues of SBE who are gracious enough to share the deets of some of their favorite all-time trips! (Interested in being featured? Submit an application here.)
In this edition, we hear from Lindsey Brigadier of Stay the Visionary to learn about her trip to Orlando, FL - complete with visits to some of the top theme parks in the area! Check out Lindsey's story below.
Florida has always been one of my top picks when it comes to vacation destinations...usually because I'll take any opportunity I can to hit up Universal Studios (my favorite!). So, the second my 6 y/o nephew started getting into Jurassic Park, superheroes, and of course all the Disney classics, I couldn't wait to start planning our family trip to the parks!
When we first started discussing when we might take our trip, I went back and forth with the idea of waiting another year or two. Part of me wanted to go ASAP so my nephew was still young enough to fully immerse himself in the "magic" of it all, but he's also a thrill-seeker like his auntie so on the other hand, I didn't want to risk going too soon and him not being quite tall enough to do all the good stuff.
The decision was pretty much made for me when I started looking into flights. $300 for me, my nephew, and my then-boyfriend (more on that below!) to fly round-trip with non-stop flights on an ideal flight schedule? Yes - add to cart. And with that, the countdown to our trip began....
The trip was actually a surprise for my nephew, so he didn't find out until
Christmas night. But since at the time, he didn't know how to read yet, I took
advantage with some whiteboard countdown taunting LOL.
We flew on Frontier, which if you're not familiar with is a basic budget airline. I typically fly either Frontier or Allegiant depending on prices and flight schedules. A la carte pricing and zero frills make it easy for me to fly frequently to see my family. While it's definitely not a luxury experience, the affordable pricing coupled with non-stop flights are a good trade off for me.
Plus, the flight schedule wasn't bad which was a nice bonus. We had a super early departure time which maximized our time in Florida on Day 1, and we flew home in the evening the following week. Flight schedules can make a huge difference in how much time you get to actually enjoy your trip, so this was a win all around!
We had an early departure around 5am and it was the little man's first plane ride so I wasn't really sure what kind of morning we were in for. Luckily things went pretty smooth and overall we had a good flight experience with no issues.
Don't get me wrong - there are definitely times when it's kind of sucky that my family lives in Florida while I'm in Ohio. This was not one of them. To give you an idea, I had budgeted approx $3000 for the entire trip. Getting to stay with family for the majority of the trip saved us a pretty good chunk of change - and left us with way more to spend on the fun stuff!
We flew into Port Charlotte airport and spent the first few days at my moms house before driving to Orlando for 2 days of theme park fun. We got a room for 2 nights at Universal's Endless Summer Resort - Surfside Inn. At the time of our stay, the hotel was brand-spanking-new, and it's a really cool place! We got a great deal on our room rate, too, at approx $150/night which also included complimentary shuttle service to and from the Universal parks.
Things to Do:
Our first day in Orlando was our driving day. We arrived at the hotel for our 4 o'clock check in and then spent some time exploring the hotel grounds before leaving for Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). This is a really awesome little shopping and entertainment district where there are tons of stores, restaurants, and activities for all ages. We had dinner at T.Rex restaurant, a prehistoric-themed grill that had the most incredible decor - complete with indoor meteor showers!
Disney Springs has a lot of cute photo ops, plus some really
awesome Lego displays (photos below)
The next day was our first theme park day at Universal Studios + Universal's Islands of Adventure. Since the hotel we were staying at was a Universal resort, we were able to buy our tickets right in the hotel lobby and they came with early park access and a complimentary shuttle so it was super convenient.
I've found January to be a really good time to visit the park as it tends to not be as busy. We were able to pretty much walk on to most rides and attractions, and never had to wait longer than 30 minutes for anything. The downside is that the park completes seasonal maintenance in January, and as a result, a few of the rides/attractions were closed. We were disappointed to miss out on the Jurassic Park water ride (especially the little man) but the closures definitely didn't make or break our trip.
Thanks to the low crowds, we were able to hit both Universal Studios and the Islands of Adventure in one day. There were a couple of rides my nephew wasn't tall enough to ride, but we had prepared him for that ahead of time. Honestly, I was more surprised at how much he was actually able to ride!
On Day 2 in Orlando, we visited Disney's Hollywood Studios. We were up in the air with which Disney park we'd go to, and our decision came down to HS being home to the new Toy Story and Star Wars lands - both of which my nephew was dying to see.
Our experience at Disney was way different from that at Universal. There were way more people, and both the Star Wars and Toy Story lands were still fairly new at this time so they were drawing really large crowds. One thing that helped with this was Disney's park app. Through the app you can sign up in advance for Fast Passes on certain rides at specific times which helps cut down the wait time, and they also include games and activities that you can complete while in the park or while waiting in line.
The Toy Story land was absolutely adorable! It seriously felt like you got struck by a shrink-ray and were in your childhood bedroom. It was really nostalgic and fun for me and my boyfriend and my nephew loved it, too! The crowds made it tough to get good pictures or really spend too much time checking everything out, but it was still cool and the themed rides were fun.
Just look at all these people!
Star Wars land was very similar. This is where the other half of the park's visitors were at, and again, it made it hard to really take everything in. We did end up going on one Star Wars themed-ride (a space flight simulator that made me extremely carsick LOL) but everything else was way too crowded so we started looking for other things to do away from the masses.
We took a break from walking to watch a 20-min Beauty and the Beast stage show that was really cute. It's impressive how the actors can jump around in those heavy character suits in 90-degree weather! After that, we hit the Tower of Terror. This ride is really fun if you're into heights/drops, but nothing will beat the sound of my nephews laughs and screams about his "butterflies" every time the ride dropped. It is a memory I will hold forever!
One Last Surprise!
We got back to my parent's house after two fun but exhausting days in Orlando (we walked 10+ miles each day!) with plans to relax at the house by the pool for a couple of days before going home. I was loving every second of experiencing this trip through my nephew's eyes and knew it was one I'd remember forever.
But those weren't the only memories to be made this trip. You know that then-boyfriend I mentioned earlier? I didn't get rid of him if that's what you're thinking. On the last night of our trip, he got upgraded from boyfriend to fiancé! It was a lowkey engagement in my parent's kitchen, but it was absolutely perfect and I wouldn't trade it for the world!
The only regret I have is not taking more pictures. I was so caught up in enjoying the moments that I didn't pay much attention to my phone, but for our family, this trip is one that will go down in the history books. We got incredibly lucky getting this in right before COVID starting shutting things down, had an awesome vacation well within our original budget, and came home ready to start the next chapter of our lives together! (Our wedding was planned for 9.25.20 but in July we made the tough call to postpone to 9,24.21 due to the virus - stay tuned!)
Consider Florida for your next trip!
There is no shortage of fun activities for all ages in Orlando, and there is literally something for everyone in Florida - including some surprisingly tropical destinations in other parts of the state making it a really versatile and customizable destination. A huge appreciation shout-out to Lindsey for sharing the details about her trip!
If you're ready to hit the road to Florida or elsewhere, SBE would love to help you plan your next big trip! Consultations are complimentary and obligation-free. Get your quote or book a consultation today, and hit the road with Social Butterfly Express!
Social Butterfly Express specializes in 100% custom travel experiences including destination weddings, honeymoons, bachelor/bachelorette parties, anniversary trips, and more!Get your custom quote here,and let us help make your travel dreams a reality!
Check out the full photo gallery below!