Today was a day to test the will.
On our road trips, I barely ever have to go to the bathroom. Yin and Yang is a thing, so for my not going, Keke compensates by going a lot. It’s cool, we complete each other.
As a result, stopping at rest stops is a common thing for us. What isn’t common is for the rest stops to really be fronts for timeshares. Keke saw a billboard for what we thought was a rest stop that also, coincidentally, offered free Florida orange juice and big, big savings on Universal Studios admissions. The OJ was a gateway drug.
Soren and I waited in the car and when Keke came back from the bathroom, we had heavily discounted tickets to Universal Studios, two nights at a very nice resort for $59 a night, and an hour and a half timeshare meeting (with breakfast) the next morning. Seemed okay so far.
We woke up ready to give our pound of flesh in exchange for our cheap hotel and for saving about half on Universal Studios admission. Since we were told the meeting would take an hour and a half, we made a reservation for a shuttle to take us to Universal two hours out and went in for our meeting.
When we got to the area where the presentations were being done, we realized that an hour and a half would not even be close to enough. For starters, the breakfast was not served simultaneously with the meeting, but before. We also didn’t get right into the presentation, but had to wait as there were many, many, many, many people there doing the same.
We did eventually get to meet with a gentleman and got started. We told him about ourselves, and he quickly realized that we were very unlikely to buy a timeshare; mostly based on how we typically vacation. We also mentioned how I work on commission, and that giving an accurate weekly/monthly income is very difficult as my income is very periodic. He told us that it may not make sense for us to go through the two to three hour presentation (what happened to 1.5 hours?), and took us to his manager to have us tell him that we don’t qualify under their income requirements. He said they’d still give us everything they promised.
That was all a lie. Long story short, we paid full price for our Universal tickets ($600 range for three park-to-park passes), and we were out an hour of our day already. It was a very frustrating experience. Long story a bit longer: Don’t do the timeshare meeting!
Frustrated and wanting to enjoy our day, we skipped the shuttle, and drove to Universal ourselves. Parking was $25, which I actually found reasonable in comparison to what other things associated cost at these theme parks. What followed after that was 11 hours at Universal Studios during Holy Week (so it was busy), and seven miles of walking according to my phone (cool for adults, but freaking amazing for a five year old). It was 90 degrees and we were exhausted.
Soren got nervous to go on the rides, and to approach any of the characters, so it ended up being up to Keke to make the most of the park. She loves the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and was excited to see the Diagon Alley attraction for the first time. She had a blast, and I suspect Soren liked taking in the spectacle of it all from afar.
Pro tip: While your child/children and your significant other wait in line for an hour and a half plus at one of the Harry Potter rides, go to the tiki bar just outside of Harry Potter in the Jurassic Park area.
While Keke and Soren waited in line for a roller coaster, I enjoyed a Jurassic-themed tropical drink for $13, and a second one (if you bring your souvenir cup back for a second use) for $9. At a theme park, this is the equivalent of a good deal, especially as earlier the bartender at the Hogshead (in Harry Potter) performed the perfect cash-be-gone spell on my wallet when I was charged me $16.51 before tip for a Jack Daniel’s Old Fashioned.
Since there were so many people, food was tricky to come by. We had tried to get some in Universal Studios (where Diagon Alley is), but the lines were very long. We remembered a restaurant that looked larger and open in Islands of Adventure (where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is).
You can take the Hogwart’s Express over there. You can also walk, but the train ride is fun. It’s fun unless you have to wait two hours in line to get on the train. We did. Worse than that, when we got to the restaurant there was a 45 minute wait. We walked around looking for something else, and eventually found a little outside vendor that served chili dogs and chicken strips with fries. A $50 plus bill later and we were eating chili dogs in 90 degree heat. It wasn’t ideal food, but we were happy to have found a spot to sit and fuel up.
I am amazed at how much people are willing to spend to stand in lines for one to two hours. I shouldn’t be, because I did it too. I think we ended up spending $800 or so on the day and that doesn’t include the hotel cost. In spite of the above complaining, our hotel was actually really nice and Keke and Soren had a great time at the park; that is all well worth the effort and money to me (although I’ll endeavor to go at a less busy time next trip).