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My last trip to Walt Disney World was amazing, but the process leading up to it was nothing short of a military maneuver. Once I'd made up my mind to take the plunge, I read a stack of vacation books, plotted the best weeks to go, researched air fare, picked a hotel, decided whether or not to rent a car, scraped together enough money, and booked it all months in advance through a travel agency.
Then, as the trip drew near, I picked the parks I would attend, made show and dinner reservations, started reading long range weather reports, and began packing my bags. Why go through all that trouble? Because, a major trip requires a major plan! Right? What you are about to read is a trip of a whole different nature, with a plan so crazy that . . . we will just have to see if it could possibly work.
Monday 6 am
I walk the dog and fire up the old computer for the day. An E-mail titled "MousePlanet reader needs help" pops out at me. If had only known the tangled web I was about to wrap myself up in, I would have deleted it sight unseen.
It seems dedicated MP reader, Jeremy (name disguised at his request), has been wanting to get away from the Los Angeles rat race for months, but time has not been on his side. Jeremy is a single man in his late 30's who spends long weeks working as an interior decorator on some fairly major projects. Although he makes a good living, he works hard for it and doesn't have much time for play. In fact, his average work week often consists of seven 12 hour days (perhaps that's why he's still single).
Jeremy's dilemma is that he would like to take a trip for the approaching weekend, but can only be away for a quick three day weekend. What would you do? Go to the beach? Stay in town and go to a spa? Drive to Vegas if you are feeling really lucky? Jeremy blew my mind with his suggestion,
"I'm going to Orlando for the weekend and need some help."
"Help," what he really needs is a lobotomy. Now this old traveler is known to take a last minute trip, but not to the number one vacation destination in the world! He might as well have suggested going to the moon.
Certainly I misinterpreted his message, so I responded back to clarify if he was really serious about leaving for Orlando in only four days. Turns out He was, and wanted ME to help him make some decisions. Now the Last thing I need is to take the blame for someone else's poorly planned trip! But, he assured me that he only needed some direction and already knew that his plan was "Crazy."
Aside from shock therapy, Jeremy needed a plan and he needed one quickly. I did my best to help, and told him to book a flight first, just to make certain he could even afford to go on such short notice.
Monday 4:30 PM
Jeremy writes back to inform me that he has successfully booked a flight for about $300 round trip, not bad for last minute notice. His question to me, "Where do I stay?" Normally, I'd ask him to keep financial considerations in mind and make a decision between the more affordable off property hotels or the more convenient but generally expensive on- site hotels (there are precious few on- site hotels which are both convenient and affordable). But for a three day two night trip, both Jeremy and I agreed that an on- site property would allow him to spend the most time in the parks (I had no idea just how important this decision would end up being to his trip).
Since Jeremy hadn't been to Florida since 1996, I suggested that he pick parks to visit that he had never seen before. Then he could decide upon a hotel convenient to that location. Much has changed in Orlando since 1996, whole new parks have popped up out of the swamps. Since our soon to be victim of mass consumerism values thrills above all else, I suggested that he spend at least one day at Universal's amazing new Islands of Adventure park. Jeremy had never even heard of this park (Universal marketing are you listening?) and needed more information. However, once I'd described all the big ticket attractions, he was certain that this would be the perfect park for a short trip. Once in Florida, he would pick a second day park. I had already discussed his many second day options with him: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney- MGM Studios, or Sea World's fancy new Discovery Cove (where you can actually swim with the dolphins).
With the main park selection having been made, we needed to pick a suitable hotel. Jeremy was most interested in a hotel room on the upper end of moderate. I'd read lots of wonderful reviews of Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel and Suggested that if Jeremy could afford the nearly $300 a night room rates, this would be a good bet for him.
As a bonus, Universal offers early entry into their parks (on selected days) as well as front of line privileges for at least the first hour of general park operation, to all guests who stay in their on-site hotels. Jeremy found these little perks just too good to pass up.
Tuesday, 11:45 AM
Jeremy writes with the news that he has a bay view room booked at the Portofino. He has his airfare and hotel room set and needs only to rent a car and pack a small bag for his whirlwind adventure.
Wednesday 4 PM
With less than two days left before his trip, Jeremy contacts an old friend in Miami whom he invites to join him on the trip. I was glad to hear that he found someone to join him, but worried that it might be embarrassing for Jeremy if his trip turned out to be a disaster. Better to suffer a poorly planned trip alone (or is the suffering better when you have someone to share it with?).
Friday 5:01 AM
One last message is sent to my mail. "Oh, would you happen to know what my options are for meals? I'm vegetarian." He also admitted to a few last minute problems that he hadn't thought of. Seems that with all his running around buying a swim suit and finding just the right clothes for a Florida trip, he had forgotten to make reservations at the kennel for his dog.
I didn't even read the message until almost noon and wasn't able to reach Jeremy in time to answer his question (I didn't know the answer anyway). I'd just have to wait to find out if he found food to eat in the parks, had enough money to last for an expensive weekend, managed to meet up with his friend, and found someone to take care of the dog!
So, was this adventure on a whim doomed to disaster, or was it an escape to remember? Read PART TWO for a trip report in Jeremy's own words.
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