I’m Back…With a Brand New Edition

Did you miss me? All 7 of you? Well I missed you guys. I’m officially back from my vacation and we had a great time. I am sitting at my desk in the Windy City with some 20/20 hindsight and more money saving vacation tips!

It was toasty down in Orlando so we did our fair share of sweating but so did our trusty water bottles. They were a life saver for sure. They saved us from dehydration and wallet murder. Yeah, wallet murder. I can’t say enough about how many beverages we didn’t have to buy, how much high fructose corn syrup we didn’t drink, and how much the humidity made me want to dive into those water bottles.

The night before we flew out, we packed and weighed our luggage to make sure we wouldn’t have to pay any overweight luggage fees. We soon realized that both our bags combined were under the weight limit. So here’s my suggestion: Pack one big bag for two people. If you are having a hard time fitting everything in one bigger bag, then you are packing too much. I only had 22 lbs of luggage for a 7 day trip.

Also, make use of the carry on option. We really wish we had just carried on our luggage. That could have saved us $100. If you bring 2 smaller bags, you can probably carry them on. If you can’t, they can check your bags at the gate (and we heard someone say without a fee). I can’t make any promises, but it could be worth a shot.

The DVD’s we brought kept us from being tempted to purchase in flight tv on the way there. On the way back they played some shows for free. Nice.

We got a few deals thanks to our hotel too. They gave us a few cards that got you a free apptizer or dessert (we didn’t use those, we mostly cooked in) but they also gave us a voucher for a free coupon book at the local outlets malls. We actually used them and when we got there we found out the malls charge $5 for them! I got discounts on shoes for me and my love, pinkberry, and some new work clothes. (Admittedly some weird shopping for vacation, but it was there and the deals were great).

Also, I thought I might do some little reviews of the places/vendors we used for our vacation.

United: Honestly, the customer service was surprisingly good. I have heard horror stories of how inflexible and rude some airline employees can be but the people we talked to from United were absolutely (refreshingly) sweet and helpful. They helped us get seats together on both flights and helped us whenever we looked a little lost (more than we thought).

TSA O’Hare: Fast but terse. Not understanding with people who we saw who didn’t know exactly what to do. The lines were very short and we made it through with tons of time.

TSA Orlando (MCO): Kind of hit or miss. The woman who checked our boarding passes and IDs was bubbly and nice while the people managing the line were practically rude and not as efficient as O’Hare.

The Fountains: A Bluegreen Resort: The room had literally everthing we could have needed. The kitchen was stocked with all the kitchen basics and appliances. It made cooking and eating in very easy. The layout of our building left something to be desired. It was faster to take 6 flights of stairs to our room than to use the very far away elevator. The staff was helpful. The grounds were clean and well kept. Tons of amenities and events even during off season. Overall very nice.

Carl’s Van Rentals: Like I mentioned before, they were very helpful over the phone. In person, they were just as helpful and the service was wonderful. Prompt pick up and knowledgeable about getting us back to the right place at the airport. The van itself was clean and in great condition. We never had any problems.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Their dedication to detail definitley showed. Every inch of the place fits the theme. Live performers (probably dying in 90 degree/extreme humidity) never faltered. Every cast member we interacted with was pleasent and helpful. Our safari driver was hilarious! The rides were great, especially Expedition Everest. Loved the animals everywhere.

Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure:  Ok, honestly we only went there to see the Harry Potter stuff, but we loved all of it! The Hulk roller coaster was a favorite for both of us. As far as the Harry Potter “island” goes, we were blown away. The rides were great, the shops were amazingly detailed and the butterbeer was (thankfully not book accurate) cold. Souvenirs were really cool and oddly priced. Some things were wildly overpriced while others seemed very reasonable.

Overall, we had a great time and didn’t break our budget too badly.