Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Orlando / Florida Visit General Tips

Hi everyone! 

I just got back from my Orlando, Florida trip. It was super fun! I am trying to write in detail about the park that we visited and the rides that we took .. however, as usual it will take some time before the posts are ready. Yes, I will divide the Florida trip stories into several posts. 

Meanwhile, here are some general tips for visiting theme parks in Orlando, Florida. Let me start with where to stay. I don't remember if I have mentioned about this before in my previous posts ... So, basically I bought the theme parks vacation deal from Costco Travel. I did try to purchase the trip separately (hotel, car, theme parks tickets, and plane tickets) on several different travel websites like Expedia, Hotwire, Kayak, etc. However, I found that the price difference was really small. So we decided to skip all the hassle and just purchased the whole vacation package from Costco. 

Costco gave us different total price depending on how long we stay and where we stay. If I remember correctly, they gave us six hotels to choose from. One of the more expensive option was Swan and Dolphin Resort which was located in Walt Disney World. However, we decided to go with the low price option which was Sheraton. Costco Travel gave us two different Sheraton Hotels to choose, one was the Sheraton Vistana Villages Resort Villas and the other one was Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas. They sounds similar right? I know =P Anyway, the latter (Sheraton Vistana Resort Villas) was closer to Downtown Disney, and that was the one we chose. You know what? We were super satisfied with our choice. 

The hotel room is super nice. It has two flat screen TVs, full kitchen with utensils, washer / dryer, and a Jacuzzi inside the bedroom! My favorite part is actually the bed. It is really comfortable. I wanted to take it home with me! In addition, as I have mentioned before, this hotel has a very strategic location. It is less than a mile from Downtown Disney, three miles from Epcot, five miles from Magic Kingdom, and seven miles from Universal Florida Resort. 

Me, super happy with the hotel

Another crucial aspect that Costco Travel offers is a full-size car. I did research on this specific issue and found different answers. Some people said that we don't need a car in Orlando. They have a very sophisticated transportation system to and from Disney Resort / Universal. Especially if we stay on Disney Resorts. On the other hand, some people felt that car is important. Yes, the transportation system is extensive but they have their own schedule and it might not be the same with our schedule. Not to mention sometimes you have to stand in line for the bus / monorail. Furthermore, if you have dining plan outside Disney Resort, you definitely need your own car.

We decided we need the car... and we were right. Yes, it cost more since we had to pay for gas and parking, but it gave us flexibility. Plus, it saved us a lot of time. For example, when Epcot closed, a wave of crowd exited the park at the same time. If we were to wait for a bus to our hotel, we might have to stand in line for another 30-45 mins. Not to mention there was a chance that we might miss the last bus since we're staying until the park closed. In addition, the parking wasn't that bad! We're always among the first 20 cars who parked in the morning =P 

We went to Orlando just for the theme parks. We visited 4 Disney Parks: Epcot, Hollywood Studio (which is similar to Disney California Adventure in a way), Animal Kingdom, and of course - Magic Kingdom. I like Hollywood Studio the most. Disney has two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Too bad we didn't have chance to visit these two water parks. We will come back for them later =P On the other hand, Universal Orlando has two parks: Island of Adventure and Universal Studio Florida. Harry Potter World is a part of Island of Adventure. Overall, I like Island of Adventure. However, I don't like Universal Studio Florida. I think that park needs an overall face lift. Some of the newer rides, such as Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and Shrek 4-D are good but the rest of the rides are very outdated. Besides Disney and Universal, Orlando has many other theme parks like Seaworld Orlando, Wet n Wild, and Busch Garden. Moreover, Orlando has big factory outlets =D

We were told that summer is the worst time to visit. However, we got lucky. We were about to visit from 13th August to 21st but somehow we postponed it into 18th August to 25th. Summer holiday in Florida ends at either 18th or 19th of August. So we actually visited during the lowest crowd level in August. Just before the parks are ready for Labor Day crowd. The weather was not nice ... for the first three days and the last day, it rained pretty hard in the afternoon. Tropical Storm is also common during late summer months. We left Orlando on Saturday, and we heard that tropical storm Isaac hit Orlando on late Sunday / Monday. We are super lucky!

So, what to bring to Orlando? For sure you'll need sunblock and sunglasses. Seriously, I don't think we can see properly without sunglasses. It was super hard to open our eyes. Another important article is Raincoats / poncho. Disney Stores sell those at high price, so you might want to get them at the local walgreens / wal-mart. If you're planning to visit Island of Adventure (which is a very wet park) you might need to bring clothes for change. Remember to put them inside plastic bags so they don't get wet either by the rides or the rain. Lastly, I learned that we're actually allowed to bring food (like PBJ sandwich, fruits, chips, granola bars, bottled water, etc) into the park. Another must for me are wet tissues and band-aid.  

Hmmm...what else? Oh, parking tips! If you're visiting Universal Orlando Resort and they offer you preferred parking, don't take it. It's not worth your $5. You still park at the same parking building, only at a level lower than the normal parking. In Disney Resort, the parking ticket (which cost $14) is good for a day. So if you have a park hopper ticket, and you decide to hop from Magic Kingdom to Epcot, you don't need to pay again for parking. Just show them your parking ticket that you get earlier from Magic Kingdom. 

I guess that's all I have for now. I hope these tips help. Gotta work on the detailed park posting! Ciao! =D

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Great America Weekend Getaway

A week before my first final this month, we went to our local theme park. Basically, I drive pass this park whenever I go to school. It's in the same road with my out-of-campus school building. Yes, it is that close!

Although Great America is so close with where we live, I never have any intention to visit the park. Why? Because I  heard people say that Great America is almost the same with Six Flags... which means its main attractions are roller coasters / thrill rides. And ... you guys know about my low roller-coaster tolerance right? That's why I thought I won't enjoy Great America. 

So what brought me to Great America then? The answer is really simple ... my husband had company outing there. The company paid for almost everything: parking, lunch, and entry tickets for two. Yes, I'm scared of the rides, but I won't say no to free stuff =P

We arrived there not too early that Saturday (that kinda show how eager I was). I think it was close to 11AM. When we're finally inside the park, we really didn't know what to do. I didn't make any preparation. No itinerary, no must-go-rides list. For a while we were just staring at the park map. Then we decided we could just walk around and see the rides. If we find an interesting ride, then we can just line up. Not long after that, I saw this one ride!

Celebration Swings

We had a local theme park in Jakarta called Dufan. That local park had this exact same ride. We actually have our pre-wedding photo sessions in that park, and we took one picture in front of this ride. This ride made me feel nostalgic =) My husband likes the ride. He said it was very relaxing.

It looks the same right?

After riding the swings, my husband somehow convinced me to try one of the roller coasters. He said, "let's take this as a preparation for Disney World and Universal Orlando." I agreed on the idea although I wasn't sure if I really have the guts to ride Great America's roller coasters. We looked around, and saw a part of this roller coaster. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Proud MBA Wife :)


After one year full of weekend and late night meetings, papers, HBS cases, articles, and exams ... I finally got my Master's degree!

Actually, I was a little bit sad because my parents could not be there on that special day. However, I was surrounded by amazing friends on my graduation day. Together with my husband, they organized an awesome after-graduation party for me. I had a blast that day.

I feel so lucky. I have this one friend who came early in the morning to my place and helped me with my make-up. Then I have my bible study sisters attended the graduation ceremony in lieu of my family. They also helped my husband planning and organizing a cool pool party for me. I have another kind friend who ordered food for the party just because she can get discount on that particular restaurant that we want. On top of all that, they gave me thoughtful gifts! I really can't thank them enough.

lots of pretty flowers

wishes from friends

thoughtful gifts

After the morning make-up session

roses from my lovely husband :)
Ah, thinking about it ... I am truly beyond blessed!

PS: I also want to thank my dear husband. Thank you for accompanying me during those late-night meetings. Thank you for the late night tea. Thank you for helping me realizing this childhood dream. Thank you for your love, support, understanding, and encouragement all this time. I really can't thank you enough! I love you dear! 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

God Provides

Hi there ... I have a big draft about Great America still waiting for pictures :) Anyway, a lot of things has happened lately and I just want to write a simple reminder for myself.

It was started by a bad news in Friday. As soon as I got home, my husband said he has a bad news for me. Just as we predicted, his bio metric appointment with USCIS is exactly on the week when we will be going to Florida. Of all the weeks .... somehow it just has to be on that one week. I was contemplating on cancelling the trip ... but we had paid a lot for it. We tried to rearrange the schedule with Costco ... but changing the airlines ticket itself will cost us around $800 ... It is a bad news indeed.

With that problem brewing in my mind ... I still need to prepare for finals (paper, presentation, and exam) and worry about graduation. I haven't prepared anything for the graduation! I don't even know what I will be wearing for that day. My husband prepared a pool-side after graduation party, but up until now I don't know how far along is their preparation. I only know my husband is very very very busy nowadays.

So, somehow, after lunch on Sunday, I decided to go shopping since I have 2-3 hours that I could spare. It was a disaster. I was looking for LOFT's $10 T-shirts in the beginning, but ended up dress shopping for graduation. As expected, I made bad purchase decision because I was in such a rush. As soon as I walked out from the store ... regret started growing in my heart. I did not think the dress worth its price. Thankfully, I talked with my BS friends, and they suggested going back there the day after. We actually have bible study meeting on that day, but they graciously offer to do the meeting on the mall instead. Although I already gave up the idea of finding a right dress for graduation, they offered to help me dress shopping.

So on Monday ... amazingly ... Banana Republic was having a happy hour sale from 5-8 PM. Even more amazing, somehow this time they have a lot of MY SIZE petite dresses on SALE. That's really rare. Seriously. Anyway, I ended up purchasing not just one but two pretty dresses at the most amazing prices! =P

Well, this dress problem is just a small thing. However, I really feel that God is showing me that He is working. I still have a lot of problems right now, and learning from this small experience, I just need to start letting go of my worries and surrendering them to God. Even more surprising, can you guess what we learned and discussed in our Bible Study group yesterday?

YEHOVAH JIREH .... God provides :)

Do Not Worry
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?"

Matthew 6:28-30 (NIV)