Saturday, March 29, 2014

Family Spring Break in Florida 1 - Universal Studios

It's been a few days since we stepped off the plane from our whimsical family trip to Florida this past week and back into reality. Admittedly, I am still in a magical daze and want that feeling to linger a little while longer. We had so much fun and are still in awe by the amount of walking (wheeling for me) and activities we fit in six days. Our journey varied from day to day, mostly with general plans for the day and lots of vacation flexibility and FUN! Just the way we like it. I meant to write each day, but was so tired by the end of each day, so I'll break up our activities into various posts.

Hiccups and Relaxation
Our trip had a little rocky start. Upon our arrival in Orlando, I learned that my wheelchair had been damaged when I struggled to push myself around. The axel of one of my wheels was bent, leaving my chair wobbly and difficult to wheel around. The wheelchair damage wasn't the first by airline travel, but it was the worst. I was a bit frustrated because it felt like someone had carelessly thrown my chair around which is basically like reckless care of my legs. Fortunately, the person in charge of damaged goods for my airline was so kind and helpful, which made this hiccup that much more bearable. I appreciated him so much. We arranged to meet with a local vendor and get things squared away that day. Unfortunately, the parts weren't going to make it to Orlando in time, so I would have to spend the rest of our trip in a crummy wheelchair. No fun.

But there were plenty of blessings to look forward to during the rest of our trip. For one, we stayed at my Brazilian friend, Thaise's family vacation home, so we had a very spacious home all to ourselves for the week. That was reason enough to be happy and so grateful. It was better than any hotel we've ever stayed at before. The house had a large window that overlooked a beautiful lake and gave full view of sunrise. There were plenty of rooms on each of the three floors and a well-equipped kitchen to prepare meals and save some moolah. The main floor was perfectly wheelchair accessible with wide doors, tons of space, a humungous bed, walk-in closet -- it's almost like it was made for me! Little Holly loved the pool on the bottom floor which she took advantage of almost every day.

We planned out some meals but made sure to hit up Checkers for dinner one night, which we were thrilled about because there are no fully loaded fries in Utah. We watched "Frozen," which for the rest of the trip AJ just kept singing the line, "Do you want a snowman," without knowing the rest of the words. Funny man. We also made a trip to Wal Mart for some goods for the week. It felt like I was in mini-Brazil with all the Portuguese I heard -- I was in heaven. There were so much traffic and crazy in Orlando because the theme parks are such a huge tourist destination.

Harry Potter, Butter Beer and Wetness
We got three-day passes to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, where there was a buy 2-days get the third free deal. We packed some snacks and plenty of water headed over to the Islands of Adventure. On the way in, a man approached me and asked why I was in a wheelchair (happens a lot) so I told him about my accident. He then gave me a little charm from his country and told me in Spanish that is symbolizes healing.

Our first stop was Harry Potter World which my little sister was so excited about. This is my third time here, and whether it's January, March, or June, Hogsmead is always jammed pack with visitors. It may be because I'm in a wheelchair, but I was feeling a bit claustrophobic because there were people packed in everywhere, but luckily I made it passed that. We absolutely loved the Dragon Challenge ride, although I was worried that my shoes would fall off the whole time because it was going so fast and there were so many loops and twists. Fun!

We waited in the massive line for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, which I absolutely loved. The squirting large spider was probably my favorite, but then again I don't have arachnophobia like my husband does. To get to my special seat for wheelchairs, I had to go through a secret entrance that is obviously not equipped for traffic, but always seems to be a problem. It was still worth the wait though. We opted out of waiting in line for the wand shop and walked around Hogsmead, got our pictures with the train conductor who was Scottish (love my Scots) and had delicious butter beer approved by J.K. Rowling herself.

Boston got tons of attention from admirers all throughout the park. They kept commenting on his luscious full head of hair and baby sunglasses (he loves them!), it was too cute to handle.

Holly's swimmer's heart dragged AJ and me to the wettest of rides, Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges, and Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls. AJ, who was the most reluctant got the brunt of the wetness on each ride but took it really well. What a trooper! I hadn't ridden these rides before so the anticipation was the worst part for me. Some of the older rides were not wheelchair accessible like the Ripsaw Falls with logs that were physically impossible for me to get into, so my husband had to carry me into them. It's times like these that make me so grateful to have help because it really makes my disability more manageable in an able world. I thought I wouldn't mind getting wet, but I was definitely ready for home afterwards after being drenched with water. If you go these rides, wear a swimming suit or bring a change of clothes. There were human drying machines available for $5 but I certainly didn't want to pay for that. It was a good thing we saved the wet rides for the end and were able to stay until the park closed. That was enough to keep Holly's heart content...until the next day.

Sleepy Baby, Long Lines, and Hard Rock
The humidity hit baby the worst since day one. He was so tired as we pushed him around in his umbrella stroller [from Wal Mart] so we he slept a lot. It was a little worrisome because he wasn't eating as much, which meant dehydration. So we did our best to keep him in cool shady areas, apply lots of sunscreen, and keep him awake, which he wasn't too happy about. We didn't get to do any rides with baby at Universal because the noises startled him and made him cry from the get go, yes, even the Shrek ride. We'll just have to wait until he gets a bit bigger :) In the line for Shrek, I discovered another perk of being in a wheelchair. Baby had a poopxplosion and we were able to change baby's diaper right on my lap, with a blanket over me of course :)

There were tons of people at Universal Studios this day, which may be a combination of Spring Break and the weekend. That meant long, long wait time for rides so we didn't cover as much as we wanted. But it was OK because we still had another day to make up for it. The trick is to get to the parks a lot earlier in the morning when other people were still asleep.

Of course we had to hit up the World's Largest Hard Rock for some awesome burgers and fries and special rock and roll memorabilia. This was the first Hard Rock we'd ever been to together and AJ celebrated his 25th birthday here while we on our honeymoon, so it holds a special place in our heart. Ever since, we've tried to  hit up every Hard Rock in the major cities we visit including the ones in Europe. We learned from our waiter that the memorabilia here constantly change because it is the perfect testing ground for new products with ever-changing visitors. This time around, I ordered the local legendary which comes with mac and cheese and bacon on the burger. It was super hardy and surprisingly delicious. I loved it and would definitely order it again!

Well, that's it for now about our trip to Florida. If you have any questions about tips on wheelchair access or family activities at these theme parks, please contact me. More to come on our Spring Break in Orlando beyond Universal Studios. This post was happily shared on  photo 0b596c19-7bb3-4256-89d4-2ff3932da329_zpse9b1cc3f.jpg

1 comment:

  1. It is totally on my bucket list to go to Harry Potter world. I am reading the series now with our kids and mom book club. My son has already read them all, his momma is kinda slow in catching up with what the cool kids are reading :)

    Thanks for linking up with #smallvictoriessunday. This week's linky just went live so hope you link up again.