Hey guys! It’s been a month since my last update and boy do I have a lot to share! As you may recall my last visit to Florida in 2019 was less than Ideal (LINK). The disappointment was not related to a lack of “Magic” but more so the quality of our experience outside of the major parks. This time, however, I broke the number one Cheapthusiast commandment of doing things as cheaply as possible. I SPLURGED on TWO and a half resort stays. Here is my experience and the lessons I learned along the way.
I gotta admit to you I am one of those “Disney People”. I don’t know how, but it is so! It is something about the quality, beauty, and customer service of Disney Parks that has me hooked! Following the 2019 visit, I knew I wanted to experience the magic over and over again. I was hitting my husband with phrases like “Next year when we are in Disney” as if we decided on an annual tradition and the trip was booked. We even planned to take my late mother who was a huge (Avatar/Harry Potter) with us.
Unfortunately, she would never make it with us to Florida. Rest in Power Sharon <3.
We all know what happened in early 2020 when the world shut down. I saw the closures of the Disney parks as the moment when shit got real! Not the fact that the NBA was suspended and every major concert got rescheduled years out! Walt Disney World emptying its midways was a knife to the gut. I found the perfect place to escape reality and just when reality got as bad as it could my escape plan was foiled!
Now, the pandemic taught a lot of us about the ugly nature of our habits and personalities thru isolation, anxiety, and grief. The biggest lesson I learned was that I was not capable of sitting still with my thoughts and feelings. Well… at least until I was forced to.
June rolls around and Universal Studious Orlando re-opens followed by Disney in July. However, work was hectic, and there were numerous travel restrictions on top of mass panic. We decided on an August road trip to all drivable states that were not on Pennsylvania’s “Bad List”. I recall several more months the beautiful state of Florida was on everyone’s “Bad List” (whether local officials cared or not.)
It’s now fall 2020 and I have had the Itch for over a year now it’s time to book! I kept seeing little advertisements for Vacations by Sean at Magical Mouse on my news feed for a while. I knew Sean Verheijen-Dickey informally for a while at that point, mostly as a corresponding fan of the podcast and travel brand he founded (COASTER KINGS). Sean was really easy to book with. He is also a hell of a salesman because I booked the most expensive travel experiences of my life. I was “throwing it in the bag” with Sean like I had unlimited funds. I know…sounds nuts! But I am Cheapthusiast, I never claimed to be a Brokethusiast!
I was all Gung-ho to go back to Florida and do it right. And man did we do it right….
As with everything on this blog full disclosure of pricing and itinerary.
We landed in Orlando at noon on a Friday in Mid-May I realized I was about 5 credits away from 200 coasters so we decided to visit the Fun-Spot parks to try and ride four coasters making the New Velocicoaster at Universal Studious my 200th.
Cost: $118 Cheaper on Groupon but not a huge savings maybe $5 to $10 total.
Day 2: Universal Parks
We had a Universal Studious Park to Park pass with early admission because we were resort guests. We bundled our park tickets with a two-night stay at Universals Endless Summer Resort (Which was BOMB AF!)
THOUGHTS: Next time I am only going to buy a 1 park per day pass to IOA because let’s face it! I only go to Universal Studios to ride Escape from Gringotts and the Mummy. The original park feels like a skip. Not to say never again but I think that Island’s of Adventure is enough to fill a day or two.
*We got a little bougie* and added express passes for $250. Line waiting is for the locals we try to hit all the rides so I may do this again.
WE ALSO RODE VELOCICOASTER TWICE!! LOOK OUT FOR THAT VLOG AND ARTICLE SOON*
Day 3: Busch Gardens Tampa
UGH… BGT was nothing to write home about in my honest subjective opinion. I will probably still love BGW more even once Iron Gwazi opens.
Cost: $222 for two people including SeaWorld Tickets
Night 3: Time to move from Universal to Walt Disney World’s Pop Century Resort. For three nights and two days of park hopper tickets.
Day 4: Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom
Thoughts: Although we reached Florida on “mask independence weekend”, the park did not immediately increase capacity. A move that I will forever be grateful for. We rode every single E-ticket attraction in each park plus more! I don’t think navigating Disney Parks will ever be a smooth as the tail end of a pandemic but one can hope so!
Day 5: Hollywood Studios and Epcot
Thoughts: I got to ride RISE OF THE RESISTANCE! Low capacity made this trip so breathable. I could do one park a day but I’m addicted to hopping! I like to have a jam-packed day full of craziness and adventure. Next year, I want to take my nieces 7 years old and 6 months old. I might have to slow the pace a bit because of the challenges of traveling with kiddos.
Day 6: SeaWorld Orlando
Cost: Included with Tampa
Thoughts: SeaWorld is and will probably always be the Six Flags park of Orlando. Until Ice Breaker opens and probably after MAKO will reign as king. I will probably visit that park sporadically for years to come but it’s not every year park. Unless there is a solid Groupon or other significant discount!
Night 6: Polynesian Isles (Resort + Flight + Rental car)
Cost: $65+450 for two.
Outside of driving to Tampa, Seaworld, and a couple of random beach moments, the car got unused. We had to drive to spend the prepaid gas charge so it would not be a loss. Maybe just shuttle and Uber next time but Aaron is a Taurus and likes to control his destiny so we’ll see!
Thoughts: I asked Aaron to add a “Buffer Day” and he found us a suite at a local Diamond resort.
It wasn’t exactly Disney or Universal Standard but it was still exceptional and a great value. We slept in a two-bedroom, two full baths, full kitchen, living room, private balcony, master suite that would make any condo/ timeshare owner envious. If it wasn’t in Orlando, where the span of value to the luxury resorts is so wide, this place would be top tier.
Overall, the 2021 trip was money well spent! I have no regrets to speak of. I am on the fence about a Disney Wedding in 2022 at the Swan and Dolphin or a Disney Cruise wedding. I and Aaron got married twice so we want a second wedding. Let us know which you’d choose!?
You only live once and there is no dress rehearsal, so why not seek experiences over material goods?
Love and Respect