Sorry about the confusion folks! I meant to save this as a draft earlier, instead of publishing it before I finished writing it. Yikes. Rookie blogger mistake, I suppose.
2 Weeks To Go, What’s the plan?:
14 days until our Florida Road-trip, but it feels like 14 very excruciatingly long days. There’s several hurdles to get through before actual preparations begin, and as I mentioned in a previous blog post there’s lots we’re hoping to leave to spontaneity. In the meantime, I’m wrapping up my internship, graduate assiatantship, and my final class. Of course, I left law and ethics until the end so it’s going to be an extremely long second half of July even though we’re already at July 22 (whoa, July flew).
However, travel is my therapy and thinking about our trip has helped me survive the summer semesters. In other words, I’ve had an awful lot of time to daydream and come up with very ambitious itineraries for our 8 glorious days in sunny Paradise.
Just a heads up, this might be a little bit lengthier of a blog post than what I typically (haha typically in the last 6 blog posts) submit. I’d really like to share my plans, wishlist, and process for preparing, even how I utilize a universal packing list I created years ago so that I wouldn’t have to write new ones every time I went someplace (I do anyway, but it’s nice to have these when I travel so that I know exactly what is in my bag when I leave so I can make sure it’s back in the bag when I come home).
Let’s talk travel week.
The word hectic comes to mind. My final examination is either on Monday or Wednesday, it’s dependent on how the semester progresses in the next week, and therefore there’s no way for us to know when my semester is actually over. I planned our flight for first thing Thursday morning, giving me plenty of time to study for and take my final, pack, and organize my apartment before we leave. I hate leaving a messy apartment to come home to. A clean apartment softens the blow of having returned from paradise to reality.
Also due to wrapping up the semester, I likely won’t have time to do laundry or start arranging the things I want to bring before Tuesday at the earliest. I’m definitely a person who needs to work these things out in advance. Unlike my husband, who is able to select the things he wants to bring, roll them into his version of a neat ball, and throw them into a backpack in 5 minutes flat.
I hate over-packing but also hate feeling unprepared for a dinner because I packed the wrong things. I try to plan outfits that can be worn more than once and for day or night (Florida is a bit harder to make this work simply because of how hot it is. If there’s not time for laundry, trust me, you do not want me wearing most articles of clothing more than once — with the exception of shorts because, who cares?). The good news is that for women, summer clothes pack up into basically nothing and therefore do not take up a lot of room in one’s suitcase.
Some items we plan on just buying when we get down there (like toiletries for instance). I have extremely sensitive skin…extremely. And for years I would buy whatever sunscreen would fit the ounce requirements for airlines, which would result in my face feeling like it was on fire for a week or more. Not this time, I’ll just buy my preferred large size sunscreen when I get down there. Same with shaving cream, a week in a bathing suit means I’ll use a lot of it and instead of packing multiple travel sized ones, I’ll just buy a cheapo regular sized one when I arrive.
The Game Plan:
On travel day, a shuttle will pick us up at 4:00 AM to bring us to the airport. Lately, we’ve been using shuttles and I have to say they’re really just so convenient. We live very near NYC and accessing any of the major airports in the area is a snap (barring extensive travel time on public transit or rage inducing traffic on the highways and bridges). My point is there is no shortage of ways one can get to the airport, however it actually costs just as much to take a shuttle (pay someone to drive and handle your luggage for you) as it does to lug your things in the subway or paying for extended parking at the airports and tolls in NY… and at 4:00 AM, “ain’t no body got time for that.”
We planned to leave as early as we are because we’d really like as much of a full first day in Amelia Island as we can. And when I say “we”, I mean me. Robert really has no desire to wake up at 3:00 AM after a long day of work the day before. I’m a mean wife =)
We’ll likely take a rest when we get into town around 10:00 AM and after checking into the hotel and picking up the rental car, we have nothing really going on that day. On my wishlist for the first day: Get to a pool or a beach, read, relax, drink something frothy, and eat something fishy. Simple. Hopefully, Robert’s aunt will be meeting up with us at some point on either the first or second day. She owns a horse & carriage company on Amelia Island, and it’s one of my absolute favorite things to do when we’re there. It gives you the chance to see the Island from a unique perspective and Robert’s aunt is a wealth of knowledge about the Island’s history. It’s like our own personal history tour and it’s amazing – if you ever visit, I highly recommend you check out Old Towne Carriage Company.
We’re on the Island for only 2 full days before we’re hittin’ the road for Orlando. My hope is that we can do a quick half-day trip down to St. Augustine and see Castillo de San Marcos and explore the historic downtown area. This is definitely ambitious, as it’s an hour and 20 minutes drive from Amelia Island, but it’s one of those bucket list places that I’ve always wanted to visit. If we can’t swing it this trip it’s not really that big of a deal because we are going back down to Orlando next year for an extended trip to celebrate a friend’s wedding.. but I’ve got a bee in my bonnet, so let’s see what happens.
August 8th we’ll get up early and spend the early morning on the Island, hopefully we’ll get to see Robert’s aunt one more time and then we’ll start our 2 hour drive to Disney, where we’ll spend the first day at one of their water parks. Robert’s leaning toward Blizzard Beach, but why he wants to be reminded of snow in August is a little baffling to me. Actually, my real problem is that I just can’t choose between the two! They both offer very different, yet equally enticing attractions.
We’ll wait until later in the afternoon to check into our hotel officially, because while you can do online checkin at any point that day, usually the rooms still won’t be ready until 3:00 PM anyway, which is about the time we’ll be finishing up at the waterparks due to the daily summer storms that roll in around that time, and will give us plenty of time to shower and change for an early dinner with friends at Beaches & Cream. By far one of my favorite places in all of Disney World. Yum. There’s something about how nostalgic that whole resort area feels to me. Another one of Robert’s aunts will meet us in Orlando at some point that night, but if we finish dinner early enough I hope we can spend some time around the Boardwalk and hopefully do some arm twisting and get our friends to visit Epcot for a little while (Epcot is the best part of Disney, period.)
For this trip we decided to stay at the All Star Music Resort, one of Disney’s value resort properties. We went back and forth for a while trying to decide if it was worth it financially to stay “on property” or at a hotel nearby, and it came down to wanting to maximize our time while in Orlando. If you stay on property you’re privy to Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, which are extended park hours at the theme parks on rotating days. On the days we are going Magic Kingdom will have Extra Magic hours until 2:00 AM, and Animal Kingdom will open at 8:00AM instead of 9:00AM, giving us a little extra time with reduced crowds and to make sure we do all the things we want in the 2 days we’re at those parks. Additionally, we really enjoy utilizing Walt Disney’s bus service which transports you wherever you want to go around the resort areas, and if we decide to drive to a theme park we don’t have to worry about paying extra for parking because it’s included in our resort stay.
The next two days we’ll get up bright and early and split our time between Magic Kingdom (1 full day), Animal Kingdom (1/2 day) and Hollywood Studios (1/2 day). We have a dining reservation on Sunday night at California Grill, a new place for us, and I’m really excited to try it. Lots of other bloggers and YouTubers rave about the dining experience there. Our reservation is right around the time that fireworks begin at Magic Kingdom so hopefully we’ll be seated with a good view of the action. For those of you not in the know, California Grill is on one of the upper levels of the Contemporary Resort and it overlooks the Magic Kingdom theme park. Usually, it’s very difficult to get a reservation at Cali Grill, which I’m finding to be more and more true of Walt Disney World restaurants in general, with a few exceptions.
We usually try to make at least a few dining reservations when we’re at Disney World in advance, especially if there’s a particular restaurant we’re hoping to try or return to, and we definitely make sure to make our fast pass selections in advance since they started allowing guests to do so. It helps reduce the amount of time you’re waiting in queues for rides, especially during slower times of the year and certain times of day. Although, if you go on a busy day or reserve fast passes for a popular ride, the fast pass lines can also be quite lengthy.
The last morning at Disney we’ll have breakfast at O’hana, our first ever character breakfast experience in all the years we’ve been going to WDW, and say our goodbyes to magical Orlando for Tampa Bay!
We truthfully have no idea what to expect from Tampa, having never been before and that’s really exciting to us. Our wishlist includes: Ybor City, the Tampa zoo, and lots of time spent on beaches or around pools. Our hotel seems to be fairly centrally located, just in case we decide to make the trek to Busch Gardens (although after 3 days in theme parks, may not be too appealing in the heat they’ve been experiencing.. but, again, who knows?).
I’ll do a separate blog post, probably in a week, with a final packing list for what I’m definitely bringing, and how I plan to organize myself into the least amount of space and weight possible for me.
Sorry it’s such a long post, but I hope you enjoyed reading about our plans and would love to hear about your Disney experiences and any upcoming summer travel plans you may have. Weigh in on whether we should go to Blizzard Beach of Typhoon Lagoon, or on other things to do in Tampa! Thanks for reading!