Holy hell, it’s less than a month later and I’m writing another post?? I know what you’re thinking…I must be oober bored 😉 nah, I’m just staying in and saving money (minus the food I just ordered for delivery lol) and boyfriend is playing video games so I figured I’d being “creative” (read, sarcastic) and write.
I also know what you’re thinking: you just wrote a post on how you’re broke & random saving tips and now you’re writing one about a trip you took. Umm, how? Well, obviously you don’t understand this blog and need to restart from the beginning. Go on, I’ll wait………………………….
Chipmunk and I decided we wanted to go away for New Year’s Eve this year, and thought Disney would be a lot of fun. We had a great time there last year, so thought, eh, why not, let’s go again! True, my credit card currently hates me (like, really hates me 😦 ), but I’m never really one to turn down an experience. Plus, we knew there were some ways to save money (again, if you weren’t expecting me to say that, you reeeaallly don’t understand this blog, and should just “X” out now). Side note: I’m going to format this post a little differently than most of my FUNemployment in Action posts, (partly because it’s been so long I can’t remember the format I was using without going to an old post) because this trip was a tad different than previous ones. This trip was part #bearventure, part Chipmunk-family trip! And so we begin…
The Background Info
When Chipmunk and I went to Disney World last year, his parents offered to book their timeshare for us. Which meant we basically got 2-nights free at a Walt Disney World Resort. Score! (And thank you mom & dad!) So we called them to see if that was possible to do again this year. That’s when we learned that Chipmunk’s family would actually be in Disney the same days we would. Hence the part #bearventure, part Chipmunk-family trip.
The Major Savings Tips
Super Cool Momma & Poppa Chipmunk, pt. 1 –
Since we were going to be in Orlando the same days Chipmunk’s parents were, they offered to book us a hotel room at the same resort they were staying at. (Momma Chipmunk was there for a conference so had a good rate for the room.) And being the generous and super cool parents they are, they didn’t make us pay them back for it. This alleviated the biggest cost of vacations: lodging. (The second biggest cost is Transportation…more on that further down). I’m beyond thankful for them for doing this; once other costs started adding up, knowing the hotel was taken care of it really made life less stressful.
Super Cool Momma & Poppa Chipmunk, pt. 2 –
The other thing that Momma & Poppa Chipmunk did for us that really helped out financially was cover several of our meals. Food at very touristy spots can be very expensive – you’d think they cracked open a golden egg to make your omelette! Plus, having family meals was just a nice way to spend time with Chipmunk’s folks, who we don’t get to see as often as mine since they live farther away (and since they also don’t have a gazillion nieces and nephews birthdays that book up a few weekends in a 6-month time span lol)
Just Okay Poppa Muffin –
(Because I know he’d roll his eyes and huff-and-puff if he ever read that haha) Parking at an airport sucks. If your trip is long enough, it can cost you more than your plane ticket! So we were super thankful when my dad agreed to drive us to- and from- the airport.
Santa…I Know Him! –
This tip was probably the smartest one we did for this trip: When people plan a trip, they usually budget out the pre-costs – the things they have to book and pay for before they actually arrive on the trip, such as the flight and hotel. Costs during the trip tend to be an after-thought. Since we were going right after Christmas, I told my family that all I wanted to Christmas was Disney giftcards or money. And my family being the amazing people they are, they did just that! The great thing about the giftcards was that they are accepted literally anywhere in any Disney park (except for the drink-cart in Japan in Epcot, but I was too tipsy to ask why lol).
Those giftcards were a life-saver! They paid for almost every meal we had that was just the 2 of us, including the Character Buffet with Winnie the Pooh and date night at Disney Springs, my alcoholic beverages on NYE, souvenirs…literally everything we needed while inside of a Disney park! And where we couldn’t pay with the Disney giftcard, we had our other Christmas gifts of cash and Visa giftcards to use. In the end, the only things we ended up personally paying for were tickets to Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure, uber rides, souvenir pictures from swimming with dolphins, and maybe a coffee or snack here-and-there. So about $250 a piece over 6 days – not too bad!
Ridin’ Around in my Automobile –
One thing to know about Disney: there is absolutely no need for a car. And this helps alleviate costs of the other big expense of travelling: transportation. The hotel we stayed at (like pretty much every hotel in the area) had a free shuttle to- and from- all of the Disney parks. Sure, you have to plan your day according to their pick-up and drop-off schedule, but that’s totally manageable and not that difficult to do. The other way to get around in Orlando is by Uber. I won’t go into my whole rant about Uber vs. Taxis (I did that in my last FUNemployment post), so you’ll just have to take my word on it if you didn’t read that post (which I’m sure you didn’t). We used Uber to get to Universal Studios, Discovery Cove, and I used it to get to lunch with my old boss. We spent just about $100 on Uber rides, possibly less, versus the $250+ we would’ve spent on a rental, gas, and parking fees.
The Actual Trip!
Okay, now that you know some of the bigger details, and somehow made it this far, let’s get into the fun part: the actual trip!
We celebrated NYE in Epcot –
OOOO. MMMM. GGGG. NYE in Epcot was beyond amazing!! Yes, it was extremely crowded; but it’s NYE. The entire world is crowded on NYE lol
Before we left for vacation, I made sure to book a FastPass at Epcot for one of their bigger rides (FastTrack). I highly encourage booking the FastPasses in advance. The Disney site and app are super easy to use, so you can just pick which ones you want which day, and it helps plan out your ROS. One thing I wasn’t expecting was all the restaurants would be full by the time I went to make the reservation for the 5 of us. So we were limited to this “pop-up” buffet they do within the World Showcase that you have to pre-pay for (thanks Momma & Poppa Chipmunk!). Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious! And hello, buffet??? I’m in heaven! I just felt bad that it was the only option, and since going to Epcot was kind of my decision, I felt responsible if it didn’t turn out well.
Then, when we came outside of the buffet…holy shit, Epcot was poppin! Towards the front their was a live band, then there was the around-the-world celebrations: China had one DJ, Italy had another and was raving, and Japan had a silent-disco party going! One country was shooting flames, America had a dance party on the water. It was like being in another world! Chipmunk, his brother, and I ended up doing 2-laps while enjoying some drinks (purchased with Disney giftcards!) and then met up with his parents close to midnight.
At 11:40 the fireworks began, and they did not stop until after midnight. They were gorgeous! It was the perfect way to ring in the New Year 🙂
New Year’s Day at Universal –
We ended up sleeping in on NYD, which is weird for me on vacation – I’m usually up and ready to go to not waste any time. But we got in late because of traffic leaving the park, and Chipmunk hadn’t slept the night before, so we needed some Zzzz. Chipmunk’s mom had rented a cabana by the pool, so we headed down to grab some lunch there.
It was up-in-the-air if we were going to go to Universal or not – it was the one park ticket we didn’t buy in advance. But when I looked on their app and saw the longest wait-time was only 30-minutes, we figured it was worth it to head their for the afternoon. So we booked an Uber, and the 2 of us were off!
My favorite part of Universal is Harry Potter (duh!), so I was excited to be back in Hogsmeade and Harry Potter world, and discovered some new alleyways and such. We went on a few rides and got an early dinner at The Leaky Cauldron, complete with Butter Beer and Pumpkin Juice. We definitely got sleepy much earlier than I thought we would; I figured we’d be there until the park closed, but we decided to head out only after a few hours. I was just too beat!
While I had fun, looking back at how much we spent on the tickets and what we ended up doing while there, we probably could’ve skipped Universal. Or, we should’ve popped some caffeine pills and stuck it out longer lol
Celebrating My Half-Birthday…Because Yes, I Am a Princess –
As I grow older, I appreciate Epcot more and more. But I think my favorite park, the one that screams Disney World to me, will always be Magic Kingdom. And since it was my half-birthday (yes, that’s a thing almost 30-year olds celebrate), we had to head there for it.
I really wanted to do one meal with characters – the whole experience is just fun and makes you feel like a kid again. So we made reservations to have breakfast with the characters as our first stop (side note: if your heart is set on dining with characters, I’m almost positive that breakfast is the cheapest option – I don’t definitely recall, and am too lazy to look it up, but I’m pretty sure it’s the least expensive meal). What made it even better were which characters were there: Winnie the Pooh & Friends! If you know me in real life, you probably know Chipmunk’s actual nickname, so hence why having breakfast with Winnie the Pooh & Friends meant a lot to me. Plus, giftcards, remember?? lol
After we feasted on omelettes, sausage and bacon, and more we met up with Chipmunk’s family to conquer the rides. Again, book FastPasses! They save you so much time during the day so you can actually enjoy a lot more and really get your money’s worth.
After the park, we met back up with Chipmunk’s family for dinner at the hotel. If you haven’t caught on, I’m very food-focused on vacations lol
Pet the Dolphin; Love the Dolphin –
I’ve been iffy about going to SeaWorld ever since I saw Blackfish. While I know there’s always 2 sides to every story, and the film was obviously biased against holding wild whales in captivity, it didn’t sit right with me. Still, I looked up dolphin experiences at SeaWorld – I’ve pet one before, at SeaWorld San Diego, but I’ve always wanted to swim with one.
I learned that SeaWorld had a sister-park: Discovery Cove. Discovery Cove brands itself as a day resort. For 1, all-inclusive price, you not only get access into the park and all of the pools/”beaches” it has to offer, but also buffet breakfast & lunch, plus unlimited snacks and beverages, including alcohol. For an additional $50 per person, you can do the Dolphin Experience: 40-minutes of being in the pool with the dolphins, including catching a ride from one!
It. Was. Awesome! We got to the park early, via Uber, enjoyed breakfast and coffee, claimed some seats on the beach, and got our wetsuits ready. Then we hit the pool for our Dolphin Experience. We got to pet 2, feel their fins, do the hand-signals for them to dance and flip, and then catch a ride into shore on one. Afterwards, we hit the lazy river a few times, before getting a yummy lunch.
The only additional cost of the day was purchasing photos of our Dolphin Experience, but really, how could we not?! The only thing I wish we had done differently was had more snacks (could’ve stocked up our backpacks!) and drank more (no, not just beers for me, but water; for being out all day, we definitely didn’t stay as hydrated as we should’ve…but also, more beer for me lol).
After Uber-ing back to the hotel in the afternoon, we showered and caught the hotel’s shuttle over to Disney Springs to meet up with Chipmunk’s family for the drone light show (it was one of the new things this year: 300 drones, choreographed to holiday music – so cool!). After the show, Chipmunk and I had date-night at Wolfgang Puck. Since it is located in Disney Springs, we paid with our (surprise!) Disney giftcards!!
This was my first time ever being at Disney Springs. When I was last there, it was still called Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island was a thing. Boy has it changed. Disney Springs is insanely big! Next time, I definitely want to devote a bit more time there to explore. Plus, unlike the parks, it’s free to get in. You just then pay for what you want to do (bowling, movies, shopping, eat, arcades, etc).
Deja Vu at Animal Kingdom –
Ok, I’m dumb. Apparently, I’ve been to Animal Kingdom before -_- I had planned a day at the park because I thought I had never been there. Well, we got to the first ride and voila, I have an incredible case of deja vu: I have definitely been to Animal Kingdom before. In fact, we have a souvenir photo from the ride somewhere in an album at momma’s house.
We messed up the use of our FastPasses a bit, so had to wait 45-minutes for the big rollercoaster, Everest (which I am never, ever, ever going on again! Backwards? In the dark? Ummm NO THANK YOU!!), and didn’t get to go the Safari 😦 Still, it was a fun time; but I wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be. It was like being in a semi-zoo, and once you’ve been to the Bronx and San Diego Zoos, it was a let-down. Unless they make some major additions to the park, I don’t think I’ll be going back to Animal Kingdom.
We had hopper passes for Disney (meaning we could go from park-to-park in 1 day), so we booked it over to Epcot, via the free Disney bus, to meet up with Chipmunk’s parents for dinner in Morocco (sooo yummy!). Because we messed up the FastPass though, we lost our spot for Soarin’. I wasn’t too disappointed (I’m not that big of a fan of it), but I knew Chipmunk liked it so I was sad he missed out.
All Good Things Must Come to an End –
Since we didn’t have to be at the airport until about 5:30pm, I took advantage of the free day and took an Uber up to see my old boss, Mike, at the radio station he works at. He’s at a cluster of 7 stations, so it was a totally different experience from my cluster: bigger building, more spread out, totally cool performance space! He took me out to lunch at this amazing falafel spot down the street. It was nice to just catch-up on life and not be in the midst of the tourist hype for a change.
While I was out with him, Chipmunk and his brother hit up Disney Quest, the giant arcade at Disney Springs. I Uber’d over to them after lunch, and then we headed back to the hotel (again, via free hotel shuttle) to get ready to head to the airport to go home. The #bearventure had come to an end.
This trip was definitely needed and an amazing amount of fun! It was the first vacation in awhile that I didn’t feel stressed being away from work; plus (brag alert), I think I planned it out nicely so it wasn’t too much go-go-go nor too much lazy, but just the right amount of both. It also doesn’t hurt that Chipmunk makes me laugh til my sides split lol so being with him obviously made it even better!
Welp, time to save up for the next adventure 🙂