Barbara: Welcome! Today I get to talk to my good friend Marie Schenk, who just got back from a vacation to Orlando with her family.
Welcome & wellness
Marie, I know people are excited to find out what it's like to travel right now, going to different places. Orlando should be a great destination to find out about. My first question, since I'm a wellness travel specialist, is what aspect of wellness do you think that this trip covered for you?
Marie: We definitely walked a lot. My son said we averaged about 25,000 steps a day. So we walked probably more than most people do in a day. And we packed food and water with us because we didn't want to eat junk all day. I mean, of course we did eat at the parks, but we were still able to bring healthy food: grapes and things that were healthier, but definitely the walking for sure is the big one.
Barbara: Did you get good sleep?
Marie: Oh, for sure. There were some nights we would get back to the hotel at nine or ten o’clock and Megan, my youngest, would just put herself to bed.
The planning process
Barbara: Let’s back up and talk about the planning process. Start there. Who were you going with? What was it for? What kind of trip did you want to have?
Marie: We just wanted to have a fun family vacation. We had planned something last year over spring break and of course it fell through, so we just wanted to go do something fun as a family with just the five of us, and just to go have fun together. See new parts of the world.
Barbara: Had you been to Orlando before, or was this your first time?
Marie: We'd never been to Florida at all.
Barbara: So this was a whole fun new adventure for you. You've got three kids. Tell us how old they are.
Marie: 14, 11 and 8.
Barbara: Those are perfect ages to do all of the Disney and Universal stuff. What about the flights? How early did you get to the airport? What was that like? Talk about those experiences.
Marie: It wasn't as busy as we thought it would be. Of course you have to wait in security. They've got it marked off so you have to stay six feet apart from everyone. But security went pretty fast. I didn't think there were as many people as when we’ve traveled before.
Barbara: Right. You were going over spring break time, so you would think that would be crowded.
Marie: We probably got there two hours early, like you're supposed to, but we got right through and had lots of time to wait on the plane. It was kind of nice because they still had the middle seat booked out. I felt like we had a lot more space and the plane wasn't crowded. We flew the red eye. So that was interesting too, but there really wasn't as many people on the plane as I would imagine; it was a lot more comfortable. I felt like we had room to spread out. It wasn't as stressful as it usually is, because usually you're crammed in. This time it was pretty fun.
Barbara: How was it wearing your masks that whole time? Through the airport and the whole flight? Was everybody okay with that?
Marie: We're pretty used to it because we wear them at school, so the kids were fine with it. And people around us were fine and all doing it.
Barbara: Obviously on the flights, they talk about how they're sanitizing. Did they give you any snacks or anything like that?
Marie: As we got on, they gave us an alcohol wipe so we could wipe down our seats and everything around us. And then they came around and got it. They did bring a pre-packaged bag that had a water and the same kind of snack they always have, like the cookie and the crackers or nuts with a napkin and it had another wet wipe. So instead of asking what you wanted, they just gave everyone the same packet of stuff.
Barbara: And they didn't do the beverage service at all, just the water bottle.
Marie: We just got a little water bottle. We ended up changing flights and it was the same for both.
Barbara: Picking up the car rental, did that go okay? Were there any glitches or anything that happened there?
Marie: That was super easy. It worked just like it normally does. So we just picked out the car and left.
Barbara: Did you notice anything there? Do you think there's any different, or new COVID things going on with car rentals? I'm sure they were probably masked when you picked up the car.
Marie: They were. Again, they gave us cleaner, but they had said they'd sanitized the car. It didn't seem like anything else was different. They did talk about like how they sanitized it and everything. But they gave us a wipe so if we wanted to wipe everything down again, we could.
Barbara: That makes you feel nice and comfortable and like you’re taken care of, right?
Marie: Yeah. But still normal at the same time. It's still the same thing. So it was good.
Barbara: Moving on, let's talk about after you arrived and what you did while you were there.
Marie: We went to Universal Studios.
Barbara: How many days did you go to Universal?
Marie: We just did one day there, and it was interesting. There were a lot of people there. We knew they were restricting how many people, but it felt like, and I didn't realize this till after we went to Disney, but it felt like there were more people at Universal than there were at the Disney World parks. It was super fun though. They had lines every everywhere of course, but they had markers on the ground so you had to stand six feet apart from everyone. We kind of liked it ‘cause you didn't get crammed on the ride with so many people. We had an odd number of travelers, and it feels like usually they try and put one extra person with your single rider and that didn't happen this time. So that was kind of nice.
Barbara: That's good. Were the lines at Universal super long? Did you have long waits normally?
Marie: No, because we downloaded their app and it tells you how long the wait times are. So we just kind of watched that. I think the longest we waited was 45 minutes in a line. It wasn’t bad at all.
Barbara: Which park did you go to at Universal?
Marie: The main one, the one that has Harry Potter.
Barbara: Did you get to do pretty much everything that you wanted to?
Marie: Yep. It was perfect.
Barbara: That's great. So that was the first day. Let's talk about the hotel where you stayed. It’s called the Lake Buena Vista Suites.
Marie: Actually, they were closed for renovation, so we stayed next door, but it was the same. They said it's the same rooms and everything. It was actually really nice. It was super clean. They did require masks to be when you were in the hotel and to go to the restaurant and everything. Outside people were wearing masks unless they were at the pool, which is normal. You can't swim in a mask.
Everything was really clean and it wasn’t too crowded. I mean, it was busy obviously, but it didn't feel overwhelming. We didn't have to wait at the restaurants for breakfast or anything. It was good. It was really nice.
Barbara: That’s great, that you liked the place where you stayed.
Marie: The interesting thing is that we had to schedule housekeeping. They said that because of COVID they weren't just going to come do it. So if you wanted new towels or you wanted them to clean the room, you had to call and just let them know before five o'clock. But that was easy too.
Barbara: A lot of hotels are doing that right now just because they don't want people to feel like their privacy is invaded. If you want the room cleaned, or when I've stayed at hotels recently, we've had to put our trash outside the door so that they would empty the trash. Did you have to do that at all?
Marie: We just normally just would take it down. They had big garbage cans right down the hall from us, so we'd would just take it out. But we saw a lot of people had put towels like outside their door and then in the morning they would pick up the new ones.
Barbara: That’s good. Did you spend time at the pool, or were you mostly out and about?
Marie: Mostly out and about, but we went a couple times after the park when the kids wanted to go swim, but usually we were tired. It was a really nice pool. It was heated and warm and they had chairs and towels down there, and it was good.
Barbara: Let's talk about Disney World, which is where you spent most of your time. Start with the pre-experience. We had to go on and look at the Disney calendar to make sure which park is available on which day. So before you buy your tickets, even at the very beginning, months in advance, you have to make sure that there's availability on the days you want to go. After that, you bought your tickets, and then you have to actually book your park. Talk about that.
Marie: Actually, it was really easy. You had us download the app and put in the code, and I just chose which park we wanted, which day, which was kind of hard only because we'd never been before. We did one of the parks twice. And when we first were looking at it, we weren't sure which park we would want to do twice, but we ended up choosing the Magic Kingdom.
Barbara: Did you end up having a day in each park?
Marie: We didn't go to Epcot. We just did the magic kingdom twice.
Barbara: And how were the lines and what was Disney like?
Marie: The lines were okay. A little bit longer than at Universal, and there were probably more people there, but I think because it's so big, it didn't feel like there was tons of people there. I've been to Disneyland over spring break and during the summer, and sometimes it's so busy, you can't even walk through. This wasn't like that. There were people, it was busy for sure, but it wasn't terrible. And I think the lines were long because they weren't packing the rides full. So it was more that they were leaving space in between, and only one group could go at a time. I think it was longer that way. But at the same time, it was really nice when you did get to go on the ride, because once it was your turn, it was more of a private experience rather than crowded.
Barbara: Were there any rides that you didn't get on that you wanted to?
Marie: Nope. We were able to do everything. Even at the Hollywood Studios, they have the Star Wars Rise of the Resistance where you have to sign in before you could even ride. You had to get on their virtual queue at a certain time. And we were able to do that, where I know a lot of people don’t get to.
Barbara: A lot of people miss out on that because they can't get on at the right time.
Marie: Yeah. But we were able to do everything. I think at the longest line we waited in was about two hours, but there was only one that was like that: at the Animal Kingdom for the Avatar ride. But it's worth it because it was really fun. But that was the longest line. Most of them were half hour to an hour.
Barbara: That's amazing, over spring break, to have that short of lines. Right now they're not doing their normal fast pass system, so I think it's a trade-off because the lines aren't as long.
Marie: It was pretty nice. Like I said, we'd been to Disneyland and we've had to wait in super long lines with tons of crowds so this wasn't really that bad.
Barbara: Which one was your kids and your family's favorite park and favorite ride?
Marie: Definitely the Avatar. At each park they had a favorite ride. They loved the Animal Kingdom; it was so different from the other parks. It’s just a really cool place. They probably loved Magic Kingdom the most. They love the big rides, and it has more big roller coasters than the others do, so they loved it.
Barbara: That’s fun. And what would you say, since this is your first time at Disney World? Compared to Disneyland? Which one do you like better?
Marie: They're so different. It's hard to say because I feel like Disneyland is more convenient with the hotels and everything right there. And the parks are right across the street. I feel like everything's closer together, but at the same time, Disney World was so different with everything spread apart and kind of more. I don’t know. They both had really good qualities, but because it's a whole different setting, it's just different. It kind of felt more relaxing at Disney World just because we only did one park a day. So we had all day to explore and go have fun and just focus there. I feel like at Disneyland it's always so busy; you’ve got to get here, and our fast passes are there and so on. We love Disney World.
Barbara: It's a great place. Did you take a couple days in between to go to beaches? Did you spend two days at the beach, or three?
Marie: We went two days. One of the days we drove to cocoa beach, which is on the Atlantic side, and that was really fun. We went on a Saturday. It was pretty busy, but we were still able to find our own space and get in the water just fine. And the kids loved it. The water is warmer than California, which is the only ocean they've been to. So we spent the whole day there hanging out, and it was super fun. Then we went to the park for two days and then went to the beach again, kind of take a break from walking in Disney. The second time, we went to Clearwater beach on the other side through Tampa. And that was amazing because it’s over on the Gulf side, the opposite side. It was beautiful. The kids didn't like it as much because there's not waves. And there seemed like there were more people on that side than the other side, which we were surprised, because I guess we were figuring it was a Tuesday. But then we had to remember it was spring break and a lot more people were there. But it was still really fun. The kids picked up seashells and still swam and the water was warm. It was nice.
Barbara: That sounds relaxing. And I think it's great that you went to two different beaches so you got to experience a couple of different things. I think we're about ready to wrap up, but do you have any final thoughts, things you would've done differently or things you loved?
Marie: I don't know. I think we loved the way we handled it. It was good. I think we would not take the red eye flight again. We did it because we thought, Oh, we'll have a whole extra day. But we went right from the hotel to Universal Studios, and then we ended up leaving halfway through and had to go back and take a nap and kind of relax a little bit. We were so tired. And then we went back and had a lot of fun, but I think we would not do that part again. It seemed like the flight home, where it was not overnight, was much better. But I think that might be the only thing we would do differently. So instead of flying overnight, we would just do an extra day. Everything else was great. We loved how we planned it, so we had a couple of days at the park, then a day off, and a couple of days, and then a day off. That worked out really well for us.
Barbara: That's awesome. Marie, thank you so much for talking to me about this!
Marie: I'm glad that you were able to help us. Like the hotel we stayed out was perfect. The location was really close to the park, but it was close to other things and it was kind of like central to wherever we were going. It's good to know that someone has been there before and can give advice. So I'm thankful to you that you were able to help us with that because we had no idea.
Barbara: I’ve stayed at that hotel previously and I think it's a great location, and reasonable too. Thank you so much for talking to me and for sharing all of your experiences. It's been so fun to hear all about it!
Marie: Thank you!