We did it! Here’s how it went…
Travel: We flew into Sanford airport and took an Uber to Aventura, which took around 45 minutes. This was our only option for a direct flight, and it worked OK. The Uber was $$$ (this was my first time trying the “schedule in advance” option with Uber where you give them your flight number… there were LOTS of hidden fees, and the final cost ended up being $30 over what was quoted during booking) but that was more than balanced out by the reasonable flight cost and the convenience of a direct route. Our airport is getting a direct flight to MCO in the spring, so maybe we will go that route next time.
Aventura: The room was great: clean, quiet (except for noisy closing doors in the hallway!), and comfortable. It was easy to get to the lobby, and we only had to wait more than a few seconds for an elevator if a bus had just dropped off a large group of people. We got a resort cup and filled it up several times at Urban Pantry, where we thought the food was fine but nothing special (the sushi, if you catch it on the day it is made/delivered, was decent!). Everyone working there was friendly and helpful. Over the three days, we took the boat from Sapphire Falls, the bus to City Walk, and the walking path, and we agreed we preferred the boat. Oh, and the line at the lobby Starbucks every morning was either short, or moving quickly. I really love getting a coffee and taking it on the boat as we make our way to the park.
Rides and crowds: We went in knowing we wouldn’t be doing a ton of rides without express pass, and we didn’t. But we still made it on a few, including E.T. (the smells were strong!), MIB several times (we discovered the clutch single rider situation here), and Gringotts (single rider line again!). We could have done a lot more if we had rope dropped, which was the original plan, but didn’t end up happening. We never made it on to Hagrid’s, and honestly, that was OK. The relaxed pace was what we needed this time, and we’ll be back. I felt that, although it did feel busy and wait times were long, it was easy enough to navigate the parks and it didn’t feel overwhelming.
Holiday parade: DS was feeling pretty tired so he chose to stay at the hotel while I went to see the holiday parade. This was the first time we’ve done this, and it was fine! (He had an ipad and could email me if he needed anything, but it will be even easier when he has a phone.) I soaked up the festive atmosphere, got a winter IPA from Yule Enjoy (yes I did), found a curb spot near the Christmas tree, and chatted with a mom and daughter who were also seeing the parade for the first time. I loved it! The Madagascar and Shrek parts were my favorites, but all the performers were so talented. Then I hustled back to the hotel via the walking path, since it looked like at least two boats full of people were waiting at the dock.
Surprise highlight: the frog choir! The show was fun, but the real surprise was how they took photos afterwards and took time to chat with every party. DS was wearing a Ravenclaw robe, and they asked him if he had a riddle, which he did! They waited, patiently and engaged, while he told them a pretty involved one. And I got a great picture.
Holiday tour: For a few reasons, we ended up not making it to the tour. I realized pretty early on during the trip that this had been a mistake to book - we are very much not late night people and none of the components were MUST dos for us. I was mad at myself for wasting the money on the tickets, but it was the right call on that day.
What’s next? Maybe June? We are beholden to the school calendar, so it’s either then or August. We will probably stay at Aventura again, with a bonus night or two at HRH or Royal Pacific if I can find a good AP rate. Definitely more rides next time too. Thanks for reading!