Before that unexpected break from blogging last year, I started writing this post after taking my boys on our first family vacation that involved going somewhere new & exciting, rather than just heading back to southern Illinois (you’ll often see me call it SoIll) to visit friends & family. Three of my SoIll best friends, who are also single mommas, & I wanted to have a group family vacation before our two oldest kids graduated high school, & we went to Orlando last June. Since this was a first time thing for ALL of us, we definitely learned some lessons that will serve us well in planning future vacations:
1) Vacation houses are a LOT of work-
There are definitely many benefits to vacation houses. They offer more space & privacy than hotels for sure. However, there’s a lot more grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, & laundry throughout your stay- which adds up to several hours of work tagged on to the beginning & end of your long days of being out & about at theme parks & doing other tourist activities with your kids, especially if you have a large group like ours was (4 moms + our 8 kids & 2 of their friends). I say spring for the hotel & eating out – save yourself some time to relax & truly enjoy your vacation.
2) Staying in Kissimmee is not what they make it out to be-
The neighborhood was beautiful, had a small park, & was right down the street from a convenience store. But when those commercials you see say “within 15 minutes of shopping & everything you need” & “under an hour from Orlando- Disney & Universal,” they literally mean a minimum 15 minutes from the nearest Walmart, add traffic & you’ve got a 20 minutes or longer drive each way, plus the long lines in the store, with few cashier’s & half the self checkouts closed. On the Saturday night we had to run to Walmart that week, I stood in the checkout line for an hour before I got to the register.
3) Legoland is AWESOME-
When we first arrived at Legoland,we were really excited to check out Lego Movie World, & the first ride we got on was the Masters of Flight, which exceeded expectations! We rode the Triple Decker Couch through a 4D Lego Universe, complete with a Duplo Invasion to escape, & all of us loved every minute of it!
After that, rain caused most of the park to shut down, & we walked around hoping the rain would stop & rides would open back up. In the meantime, we checked out Miniland USA & Star Wars Miniland, which were incredible! I can’t even imagine how many hours it must have taken to build the White House or Chewbacca out of Legos!
Then we went to see the Lego Movie 4D attraction, which was also enjoyed by all.
While in the film, the rain got much worse, & us mommas had four rather disappointed boys with us, but the park replaced all of our tickets for free- including the already free passes I had received- & added the water park to the ones that didn’t have it, giving us a full year to go back & use them! So standby, hopefully you’ll be seeing an update to our Legoland experience in the future!
Disclosure: I received two of our Lego Land passes free in exchange for my honest review of the park
4) Spring for express passes at Universal Studios-
First thing in the morning, the wait times are only 10-15 minutes, after that, they jump up to 45 minutes to an hour or longer, & you’ll wish you had express passes to be able to make the most of your time, they’re definitely worth spending a little more money on.
5) You definitely need more than one day to fully experience Universal-
We were a group of four single momma’s who are like sisters, with all of our kids plus two of their friends, who wanted to give our children their first real family vacation experience. This time around, we were only able to do one day at Universal Studios, & we did NOT spring for the express passes. This made for a long, tiring day, with several rides & attractions left unseen. That’s not to say we didn’t have fun- we split into three groups, & my group enjoyed several rides & attractions, & all left happy & tired. I definitely plan to go again in the future & make sure we get two to three days, with express passes, to do all the things.
Don’t forget to grab some donuts to take back to your vacation rental or hotel, we brought two dozen back to the house & there wasn’t a flavor I tried that I didn’t like!
Bonus Tip: While in the area, be sure to take a day or two to go out to some of the beautiful beaches & relax. We visited Clearwater & Anna Maria on two separate days, the drive wasn’t bad at all & was so worth it! Especially Anna Maria- there’s a lot less tourists, so it’s not as packed & so peaceful!
What are your favorite travel tips for helping family vacations go smoothly? Please share them in the comments below, I need all the help I can get for when we go back to finish our Lego Land visit!
–Walking by Faith & Making Memories, Gerri