Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Florida -- Prelude

So msmemory and I managed to be about as indecisive as one can possibly be for this vacation. We had agreed months ago that we wanted to take a vacation in the late winter. It's been close to two years since we've had a real vacation, and we needed it terribly. (I don't count Pennsic. That's fun, but it's enough work that it doesn't really count as a vacation.) We even had decided over a month ago that last week was the only practical time we could take it, because it was the only week with two adjacent weekends that could be freed up. (Which says a good deal about how busy we've been lately.) But figuring out where to go took some doing.

Plan A was Las Vegas. I've been curious about it for years, and the more they turn it into an amusement park, the more interested I get. The gambling sounds like reasonable fun -- we're both decently sensible gamblers. (That is, we both understand well that gambling is simply a form of entertainment. So we should be able to budget a certain amount, blow that, and stop.) Problem is, the more we read into Vegas, the clearer it became that, while it would probably be a fun four days, it wasn't really a week-long trip in and of itself. And neither of us was summoning great enthusiasm for a half-and-half trip quite that far away and experimental. So it gradually dropped away.

Plan B was to drive southward, and wind up wherever we wind up. This is what I call a "Dad vacation", because it's the way my father prefers to vacate. Of course, he's got a plane, which makes it much more practical -- when you can cover 500 miles a day pretty easily, you have a lot of options. msmemory pointed out the big hole in this idea: we'd have to get quite a ways south before it really got warm, and she really wanted warm. She suggested driving south in a more focused way, and trying to hit Florida for a relaxing time there, but I wasn't enthused by that -- it would take us a hard 3 days driving in each direction, which wouldn't leave us much time to loll in the sun. So we scrapped that idea (ducking a really big bullet, as it turned out, since that plan would have put us somewhere around Washington on Sunday).

So we wound up on Plan C, one we've been talking about for years: going to Florida and not going to worship at the shrine of the Mouse God. We're both big DisneyWorld fans, and like to go every five years or so. But we'd been there relatively recently, and had no real need to go again this soon. And we've never done much of Florida aside from Disney together before. So by process of elimination, we decided to go for it.

Mind you, this was Thursday, and we were planning on leaving Saturday. So Thursday evening and Friday were spent in a whirlwind of preparation. Thank heavens for the Web -- we managed to put together the whole travel plan sans agent in a few hours: plane, car, hotel, and tix to Universal. (Just because we weren't going to Disney didn't mean we weren't doing any amusement parks. We've been curious about Universal for years. More about that later.)

Plans made (including arrangements for cat-sitting), we headed out to the airport on Saturday. We decided to try another experiment this time, and fly out of Manchester. This proved an enormous win. It had the downside that we couldn't get a direct flight, but the airport itself was worlds more pleasant than Logan. It was calm and unhurried; there was ample parking; the people were friendly and competent; in general, it was unstressed. It's going to be difficult to ever deal with the hassles of Logan again.

The flight was Continental, mainly because it gave us the least unreasonable price. (Planning as late as we did, we got pretty well shafted on prices, but we were expecting that.) They proved generally competent. Their e-ticket system was a breeze to use -- indeed, it was actually well designed and programmed, compliments I don't often give. The first leg of the flight was on a teeny-tiny little commuter jet, and my legs were a little cramped; on the other hand, it had the advantage of being only three seats across, so we got both the window and the aisle. (So I didn't feel too guilty about taking the window seat.) In general, the flight down was uneventful.

The hotel in Kissimmee (near Orlando) was really very nice. We wound up at the Star Island Resort. This is one of these places that's focused on timeshares, but which rents out the flats that no one is currently using. So for just a bit more than the price of a broom closet at the Park Plaza, we found ourselves with a pretty decent apartment, complete with full kitchen, two baths (including huge showers big enough for two to use comfortably), a separate living room, and a jacuzzi in the master bedroom. The complex is a bunch of midsize buildings, with fountains all over the place and lots of sports activities. The only thing it lacked was Internet connectivity (leading me to suspect that their target market is mainly the 65-and-up crowd), but since we hadn't brought the laptop, that wasn't an issue. I recommend the place.

(Also for future reference: we got the reservation through Orlando.com. This site has an interesting gimmick: their prices were uniformly excellent (significantly better than AAA), but it's a strictly no-cancellation policy -- you pay in full at the time you make the reservation, and there are no refunds. So it was actually very well-suited to the last-minute planning that we were doing in this case.)

Thence a late dinner at Friday's (just outside the gates of the resort), and to bed...

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