Day -1 Friday 29th March 2019
It was a normal school/work day for DD7, DD9 and DH. I had already finished earlier in the week and I was so organised it was quite a relaxing day. We headed to the Courtyard hotel near Gatwick about 7 pm. I had fed the girls and myself beforehand so we just had dessert while DH had dinner. This was a lovely start to our holiday but it did make our traveling time rather long. Cost wise it was cheaper than a return cab as they look after your car for free and deliver it to the airport when you return.
Day 0 Saturday
The problem with sharing a room with your kids is as soon as someone goes to the loo it’s not long before you are all awake. Our flight wasn’t until 11:30am but as we were up we headed to the airport, checked in etc. and found a nice table near a bar. Where I enjoyed a lager at 10 am while feeding my kids nut bars and telling them they could only have water. No issues with our flight, watched a few films whose names escape me, the girls enjoyed themselves, and we chatted a bit with our neighbors who were all roughly sitting in the same seats on the way back. It was economy with extra legroom, and the row behind. I hate how much it costs to reserve seats with BA, it’s nearly the price of a whole flight. I could risk it now as my girls would cope if they had to sit on their own, though DD7 might need a bit of bribery, though the chances are we would at least get 2 seats together. Anyway, we landed about 4 pm local time, and Orlando airport wasn’t as horrendous as last time. My phone wasn’t picking up any Internet so I couldn’t use Uber, this meant a more expensive taxi, and we had to wait for one that could fit all our stuff, I always pack too much. Arrived at Hard Rock Hotel just before 7 pm, we weren’t as wiped out as I’d expected and the kids wanted to swim, so we had a quick dip while DH watched us from the bar. I love this hotel, didn’t find it loud at all, but the underwater speakers and the ones around the back of the pool weren’t working. For being able to see your kids, this pool is perfect and 48’children can stand in most places. However for an adult it’s a little annoying. We liked the afternoon DJ and live music in the evening, usually someone singing with a guitar. I’m getting ahead of myself, but incase I forget there is a machine that sells stamps in the shop and there’s a post box. I hadn’t been expecting to send postcards but I’d written out my families addresses on sticky labels beforehand, just in case. I think we headed up to bed around 8-8:30 and I got the park bag ready for the next day. DD7 and DH snore, I can too but I was too busy listening to them to get the chance. After the first night there was a strict ‘you must blow your nose before bed’ rule.
Day 1 Sunday – Universal Studios
I hadn’t been expecting a kettle so I had bought my own tea bags from home and a thermos mug, fortunately they didn’t charge me for water and milk in their snack bar. The girls and I shared a freshly made waffle, egg and bacon croissant and a donut, which we took to the main hotel lobby to eat, while DH showered and I picked him up a croissant too, it was all very tasty. We left about 7:25 am and there was a boat waiting so we jumped on. You can’t beat HRH for the location it is brilliant, when there wasn’t a boat waiting or expected imminently we walked, it’s a lovely path and only takes 5-10 minutes to get everywhere. We were first in line at Olivanders and both girls were chosen for the wand ceremony, we then wandered around doing spells and saw the dragon breathe fire, rather cool. Tried butterbeer, we all had a couple of sips and chucked the rest away. DD9 bought some every flavor beans, I ate a dirt one, she’d chew the disgusting ones and then spit them out, sensible child. We did rider swap for Escape from Gringotts, it was great and I only felt a little queasy, did have to close my eyes a few times to keep the motion sickness at bay. DD9 enjoyed it but was a bit scared despite being a Harry Potter fan, she preferred Forbidden Journey, though the only HP ride she wanted to do more than once was Flight of the Hippogriff. DH thought they were all great but had no desire to ride again on his own. We then took the Hogwarts train, nice interlude and DH and I reminisced on when those type of carriages were common in the UK. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to enjoy Forbidden Journey as I had to keep my eyes closed the whole time and I was literally holding on and waiting for it to end. DD7 also kept her eyes closed, it wasn’t her cup of tea, a bit too scary, but the others enjoyed themselves. Both rides are very impressive. We had lunch at the 3 broomsticks, no queue for food as we’d arrived shortly after opening, but there was a 15-minute wait at the bar. As we’re waiting for our food, DD9 was asked who her favorite character was, she replied Snape and was given a free Butterbeer. I kindly thanked him and then passed it on to someone in the line at the bar. Food was edible but nothing more. DH and DD9 then rode the Hippogriff; DD7 wasn’t keen so we wandered into the next land to find a quiet place to sit in the shade. The morning had been more about DD9 so we headed into Suess Landing next. I loved the train trolley, it’s their equivalent of the people mover, though the girls thought it rather lame, however they couldn’t get enough of the Carrousel and One Fish, Two fish, which they rode multiple times. It’s similar to Dumbo but with water, they loved this. We walked back to the hotel around 2ish and spent the afternoon and early dinner around the pool. It was lovely but I didn’t reapply the sun cream and the girls got a little red in places. DH and I had a brief nap while the kids played on their kindles then we walked back to Universal Studios. Saw Minions, luckily for me they had stationary seats, and found a good spot for the Mardi Gras parade. We had taken the buggy and DD7 was asleep by 7:30 pm and slept through it. It was fun and was definitely the highlight of DD9’s day, she loved all the free necklaces. We went back twice more and came home with 257. Bed by 8:30 pm and asleep soon after.
Day 2 Monday – Discovery Cove & Seaworld
We left our room at 6:15 am, called an Uber which arrived within 5 minutes and headed to Discovery Cove, perfect timing as we only had a 5-minute wait before they opened the park at 7:15 am. We started with breakfast, found some loungers and got geared up ready for our Dolphin swim at 8:30 am. This was brilliant, and the timing would have been perfect on a hot day but it was cloudy and rather cold so DD7 never smiled and couldn’t stop shivering. We all loved our day here, the lazy river was great and bird watching while you float around is incredible. The girls didn’t enjoy snorkeling with fish and Rays but DH and I did. Other highlight of the day was we met a sloth, which was really cool. Unfortunately it rained all afternoon, not heavily but enough that you couldn’t just lay out in the sun. We ate 3 meals, nothing special but it’s all included in the price, and left around 4:15pm for Seaworld, which was also part of our ticket. Large lockers were $25 so we decided we could carry our 3 rucksacks and a paper bag with our photos and free towel. WRONG DECISION. One Ocean the killer whale show was amazing and very sad, I felt guilty just being there. We then walked all the way around the park, only stopping for the carousel until we reached the Penguin ride, the girls enjoyed this and we liked seeing the penguins, they have 2 versions, the mild I was fine with and it had a shorter queue, the non mild one just rocks a lot more. After that we were done, we were tired and sore from carrying the bags and our mood was not improved by an Uber driver who didn’t show up. We ended up paying for an expensive cab and were all in bed shortly after 8:30 pm.
Day 3 Tuesday – Universal Studios
We weren’t interested in early entry, so I picked up a couple of waffles and we had a leisurely breakfast in our room. Left around 8:30 am, arriving less than 10 minutes later. First up was the minion show, followed by Jimmy Falcons race through NY, it was OK, DD9 wanted to ride again, but the rest of us said no. DH & DD9 tried the Mummy, DD9 said it was way too scary, but DH thought it was good. Then we wandered round to Men in Black, though I came out wishing they hadn’t felt the need to spin the car. We checked out Springfield, decided to skip Simpsons as it was another screen ride and rode ET, which was lovely. It was raining when we came out so we had an 11 am lunch at Moe’s Tavern, it was decent and it was fun trying Duff beer. We left around 11:30/12 and spent the afternoon relaxing, DH and I had a nap while the girls had some kindle time and then we hit the pool. They always found friends to play with and joined in with at some of the entertainment. The entertainment here was on a larger scale and included adults in some of its games, while the Beach Club was aimed at children younger than mine, and it was very mediocre. I also did a load of laundry, very convenient as only 2 floors down, I could pay by credit card, and I had brought my own washing capsules. We headed out about 5 pm for our reservation at Pat O’Brien’s. There were only a few families eating at this time, and only one pianist but we had a brilliant time, the food was good and DD9 spent most of the meal dancing. We then headed into the Studios park to see Minions again and find a place for the parade. DD7 was in the buggy but managed to stay awake, the excitement over catching necklaces trumped her tiredness. We were at the beginning of the parade route, afterwards we headed towards Diagon Alley and caught the parade again, yay more necklaces! We did a few spells and then DH took DD7 back as she had fallen asleep and he was tired. DD9 & I stayed out and saw Celeste’s show and then found a spot to wait for the Cinematic experience, which is a light show with projections and a few fireworks. It was nice and it was lovely to be able to walk back to the hotel. There were a couple of bicycle carriages, so I treated DD9 to the 2-minute ride.
Day 4 Wednesday – Islands of Adventure
We had originally planned to go back to Seaworld but no one wanted to. Breakfast consisted of nut bars and dried fruit that I had brought from home, and concierge kindly changed our mythos reservation to today. We left at about 9:15 am. Spider-Man first, DH thought it OK, but DD9 wasn’t overly impressed as she doesn’t know the film. DD7 and I sprayed a few people with water, found a cool playground and then met up with the others at the Jurassic learning place, we had fun creating our own dinosaurs that superimposed our faces onto them. DH and the girls rode Flight of the Hippogriff twice and we checked in early for our lunch at Mythos, very enjoyable meal, I had fish tacos that were delicious. Next up DH & DD9 tried Poseidon’s Fury, should have all done this as there was no ride or screens, DD7 and I bought some melon and found a quiet shady spot in the Lost Continent. Then it was time for the water rides, my favorite. We loved these though I had to bribe DD7 with the promise of ice cream to ride the Jurassic park one twice, she had accidentally bitten her tongue. We then called it a day and spent another afternoon around the pool. We stayed too long and ran out of time to get dinner, so the nutbars and dried fruit were brought out and we headed back to the parks around 7:30 pm. Saw Hogwarts Castle at night, which we had to queue for and were packed in like sardines, the girls and I sat on the stage to the side but it meant we couldn’t see part of the castle. It was nice, but now we’ve seen it we wouldn’t go out of our way to see it again. We only did one spell as there were way too many people and caught the train over to Studios for the cinematic experience. DH thought it rather lame, his comment afterward was ‘Disney does it better’, but the girls and I enjoyed it. Having a buggy and express pass meant we totally bypassed all the queuing at Hogwarts express, which was fortunate as otherwise we would probably have missed the show. DD9 was reminding us that we hadn’t had dinner, so we headed for the Beach club pool bar and restaurant at HRH. Lovely place, excellent service, but it’s expensive. Nice way to end the day.
Day 5 Thursday – Islands of Adventure
Think we had waffles for breakfast, left around 8:30 am, walked through Studios and caught the Hogwarts express. First stop was the Pteranodon flyers as it’s one of the few rides that you can’t use the express pass on. The girls loved this and rode a few times before the line started to build up. Next was King Kong, DH and I enjoyed this, though the girls were scared, DD7 was fine as she just kept her eyes closed but DD9 kept trying to watch. We explored Toon town and let the kids play on Olive’s boat, I wanted to ride the barges however no one else wanted to get wet. Ice creams next and then onto Suess Landing for the carousel and One fish 2 fish, which the girls rode a few times and I insisted on another trolley train ride. We hit Citiwalk at midday with no particular place in mind, this wasn’t a good idea, and then it was back to the hotel for pool time and a load of laundry. We couldn’t get a reservation for Cowfish but we turned up just after 5 pm and got a table almost immediately, hotel guests do get preferential treatment over other walkins. We all liked this place, special mention to the tuna nachos and PJ&B milkshake. We finished with one more parade and positioned ourselves near the beginning so we could make a quick escape. While we were waiting we allowed the girls to go see the Minion show on their own, this was a bit scary as it took longer than expected but they were fine and found their way back to us before the parade started. We were back in our room shortly after 8 pm, and I started packing for our move to Disney World while DH and I enjoyed a cup of decaf tea and the girls played on their Kindles. Visually the parks and Citiwalk are as detailed and impressive as Disney, but we all prefer the rides and shows at Disney, with a few exceptions. Staying at HRH with the express pass made our time here very relaxing and completely stress-free.