I am posting this from a point of view of not so much to inform others but to help myself and my children remember the memories we made. I thank you for reading and hope that in my quest to remember everything, you pull some useful information out of it as well.
Packing, Driving, and Flying….oh MY!
We left Friday morning. Our plan was to leave by 8am which is fairly close to when we have to leave for school anyway. We had almost everything packed and ready to go the night before other than what we were going to wear today and our toiletries. The girls surprisingly went to bed at a decent our last night. Ella at some point did say, “I can’t wait to go to bed.” She was excited to get to sleep so she could wake up and get this day started. I was worried they would wake up at 5am but that didn’t happen either. I think it was closer to 6 or 6:30 which is almost close to a normal day.
In fact, I was surprised at how normal everything started. Everyone was relatively calm with no crazy over-excitement. We argue as we usually do about things like getting dressed and a few extra things like clipping toenails before we leave. We got into the car, stopped at Starbucks and headed south for Minneapolis with one pit-stop in Reynolds to drop some things with the in-laws and say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa. We stopped to fill gas at Reynolds so we could go as long as possible and off we went.
The girls surprisingly jumped right into homework which was good. They did OK at getting a few things done (but after we got back home a week later they still had plenty to do).
We had to stop at Fergus Falls for a bathroom break so we decided might as well fill gas so we don’t have to stop again. This, unfortunately coincided with the time I had set up for Mickey and Minnie to call us. So as I filled I had the girls sit in the car and wait to use the bathroom. At 11:01am they called. Sophie thought it was great and was excited, Ella had a weird look on her face, and Kaitlyn had a look of “this is ridiculous, I have to wait to go to the bathroom for this?”
After an all important Stop at Chipotle, it was time to get to the airport! It was about 2pm by this time and our flight left at 4pm. I like to get to the airport plenty early for flights, by the time we got there it was closer to 2:30 which left us some time to get through security and say hi to our friends who will be joining us. We got through with little problem. Actually, ask Chris sometime about what got him hung up at security for a little bit. I probably shouldn’t post what it was….should I Chris?
Actually by the time we all got through, finished getting drinks of water, tying our shoes and walking to the gate, it was already time for us all to board. We had to shuffle ourselves so the friends could all sit together. It took a little bit but it wound up like this. Heather sat with Kate and Sophie (Kate had the window). Ella and Leighton sat by me (Ella had the window). Ally and Kaitlyn sat together. Linda and Chris luckily got to be by themselves on the flight down. How romantic for them!
After inspecting the safety information….just in case.
And playing video games to distract us from possibly a little fear of flying
We were in the air with little to no problems at all. There were some small screams but it was more like the ones you hear on a roller coaster. Actually it is quite cute, as you will see on the video, Kate Auger was looking kind of nervous before takeoff so Heather asked her if she would like to hold her hand. Kate reached for Heather and Sophie quickly followed. Ella squealed a little at takeoff and Leighton looked as though he would pass out as he put his head between his legs a bit. I asked him if he wanted to hold my hand but he said no. After being nervous of banking a couple of times to get clear of traffic, they were fine the remainder of the flight.
And time to break out the peanuts Sophie snuck on board. Ella and Sophie were afraid the peanuts wouldn’t be any good. Unfortunately we would never know because there were no free snacks on Southwest! Good thing she brought her peanuts!
Drinks were had and they played video games and listened to music to pass the time. Heather tried to sleep on the way down but every time she would start to doze a little hand would tap her and want something. I didn’t even try as I typically can not sleep on planes. Chris and Linda of course were able to sleep for a little while. Leighton in the mean time must have had 4 Fruit-by-the-Foot. He complained of a tummy ache when we got closer to Orlando….hmmmm…wonder why?
Kaitlyn wanted to use the camera to take pictures of the beautiful sunset.
So naturally they also used it to take a selfie. These two did a variety of things along the way. From music, to talking to a little bit of homework. There was a girl about their age in the isle seat next to them. She reminded me of Maria Kroeber. They talked to her a little but not much. She said they were going down to do Disney World of course.
We got to Orlando around 7:30 Eastern. We were able to quickly locate our luggage and Budget Rental. We rented a 12 passenger van to get us to the Best Western in Cocoa Beach. Took about a half-hour to get the keys and another 30 minutes to find the van and figure out how to load up all our luggage. We should have taken a picture of the van once we were loaded. We were pretty full. The four younger ones sat in the way back. Oldest ones, second from the back along with some luggage. Wives and luggage in the second seat and Chris and I were up front.
After an hour drive and $2 in tolls in the full moon lit drive, we were on the coast. My phone’s GPS seemed to work a little slow down there and I got confused by it and wound up taking a wrong turn. I diverted us toward the south end ports. Remember this, as we decide we like this detour tomorrow. Thankfully, it didn’t divert us much and we were able to quickly get back on track.
We got to Best Western and there was a line of people in the office area. Crap! We called on the road to make sure we still had a room because it was going to be 10pm by the time we got there and they said “No problem! We have room!” When we got there however we were concerned for a bit because there were people complaining about a mixup. We figured out there was a very large group that got there right before us and there was some confusion with them. They stepped aside to let us and about 3 or 4 other people waiting to check-in and get our room keys. In the mean time, the wives and children went next door to a steak restaurant. Heather called to tell me to hurry because it closes at 10pm….it is now 9:55. We finally get our keys and walk into the door right at 10pm. They had already seated the rest of the family by that time and they didn’t look too happy about it. Mind you, I have never had good service in Florida and the trend was about to continue. Yes, we got there at close so either tell us we are closed and say “Sorry” or smile and serve us and get us out of there quickly. I would have happily tipped them very well had they just sucked it up and smiled and took care of us politely but that wasn’t the case. At any rate, we kept the orders simple and ordered burgers, chocolate milk (which consisted of milk with Hershey’s syrup poured in) and waters. We got out of their hair fast BUT we were not the last ones there. There was still a loud group of drinkers they were waiting on to leave as well.
We quickly turned in for the night as we knew tomorrow would be another big day. Heather got clothes arranged for embarking tomorrow and the kids went to sleep. There was a party going on next door that kept me awake half the night. I wasn’t happy about that but I tried not to let it ruin anything.
Notes to Future Travelers
In this section I will give little insights into why we did what we did for those who may one day want to take their own cruise.
I used Airfare Watchdog to help me keep aware of flights every day. This site will email daily deals it found. Ultimately, wee chose Southwest mainly cause of the price. We could have flown out of Grand Forks to Orlando International or Orlando’s smaller airport but for a family of five that would have been nearly double the price to fly out of Minneapolis. At one point in August we noticed the prices dipped but we thought they would go down farther, especially as the time got closer. I had read one article that said on average, the fares are usually the lowest around 54 days from the day of departure. That would have put us in early December before we booked a flight. Well, after August the prices jumped again and never came back down. We were getting a little antsy because the rest of our travel plans sort of hinged around our flight times. Finally, in November for one day there was a price dip. I had been watching every day and there was one day where the prices dropped momentarily. I quickly called Chris and we jumped on it.
Southwest is very low on frills it seems. Seats are looking worn, carpet is dirty and they don’t offer anything complimentary other than drinks. The crew was not that friendly either. I really didn’t see them smile at all.
So no we knew we weren’t leaving until 4pm Friday and wouldn’t get into Orlando until 7:30 or 8pm and we now knew we wouldn’t return to Minneapolis until 8pm from Orlando the following week so that helped us make our decision for transportation to and from port.
There were options such as Disney transfer which grabbed your bags right from Orlando Airports Hyatt. We didn’t opt for this because 1) It was more expensive than we wanted to deal with and 2)There were no more rooms. We also could have taken a private transfer. We actually debated on taking a limo ride out there because even that would not be that expensive. Check out Happy Limo for prices on things like limos, vans, and luxury cars. They really are not that bad. Mouse Savers has some discount codes to use there (along with some helpful information relating anything Disney). We didn’t use them however because we were getting in late, wouldn’t get to our hotel until 10pm and we thought if we rented a van it would give us an opportunity to pick something up should we need to quick do some shopping before we got on the ship. As you will read in another post, we needed to do some shopping.
If you have a large group, I would recommend this again. We barely fit with all our luggage and hindsight, I don’t think we would have been able to fit us all and our luggage into a limo but it would have been pretty cool to ride up to port in style!
I read that many people were staying closer to the port in places like Country Inn and Suites in Port Canaveral. I looked into places like that but they were typically no cheaper than $120 a night. I wanted to save my money for other things….like booze! So for a mere 5 minute more drive we could go a little farther south and stay at cheaper hotels there. Eventually, after researching a bit on what would be the best fit in price but not giving up too much luxury, we decided on the Best Western in Cocoa Beach. It wasn’t bad and served a purpose for the night. Wasn’t the cleanest, most kept 5 star place (or probably not even a 4-star) but we were able to rest our heads after the party next door dyed down and have a good breakfast the next morning. For a 3-star type of hotel, it was good. They had these neat automatic pancake makers where you just push a button and after about 2 minutes, two pancakes come flopping out the side. Cereal, toast, muffins…the usual type of fair you seem to see now days.
If you have a hard time turning your head away from a dirty blanket, you might want to stay closer to the port. This one was fine for me and my wife was able to rest and she gets disgusted much more easily than I do.