Saturday, October 15, 2022

Fall Break 2022: Orlando, Florida


Last year, my brother and I had decided to go down to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. I've always wanted to "eat around the world" at Epcot, so we had tacked on an extra day for that as well.  Little did we know, the International Food and Wine Festival was happening at that time of year. We enjoyed it so much, we decided to go back again this year, but with an additional day at Epcot so we had time for more snacks!

Sunday, October 9, 2022

My flight wasn’t until 8:40AM, which is late for me. I usually take 5:30-6 AM flights, which results in me not sleeping because I’m afraid I’m going to miss it. This was nice because it was a Sunday (no Nashville traffic) and I could get up at the time I normally get up during the week and still get there with time to spare. 

Unfortunately, I did still wake up at 3:45 and couldn’t fall back asleep. And double unfortunately, it was literally freezing out and my low tire light stayed on the whole way to the airport because they hate the cold weather as much as I do. (I've had some traumatizing issues with my low tire light and flat tires on previous trips...I checked my tire pressure and they were fine to drive in so I challenge my anxiety to ignore the light - and I did!)

I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare and read for a bit before boarding.

This was my first experience with Southwest Airlines. I was boarding at B10, and while the boarding line is annoying (not enough space for 5 people AND their bags between those poles!) I managed to snag a window seat by the wing (my go-to space) and no one sat in the middle seat next to me.


I thought I’d sleep on the flight, but I ended up reading a bit, then starting a movie. I had just read an article about Mila Kunis and her new movie in Netflix, so I decided to watch that. THEN I realized it is based on a book I recently read and enjoyed - Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. The movie was good too!

The flight and layover were both uneventful, and though I didn’t get to board until B24 on my second flight, I still got my go-to window wing seat.

Once I landed in Orlando, I tracked down my brother and we went to get our rental car. The Alamo guy said I could pick any car in the given row. Of course I went straight for the Corolla. Unfortunately, once we got settled into it and I started the car, THE LOW TIRE LIGHT CAME ON!! I was like NOPE! And we grabbed all our things and moved on to the next Corolla in line. (ALSO unfortunate - I realized later I also left my hoodie in the first Corolla).

We went to Disney Springs for a very late lunch since their was a poutine stand there. Though they had a couple options, we both got the Canadian poutine. Ike got a sprite, and I got a drink called Arendelle Aqua Punch, which was made with coconut rum, peach schnapps, Blue Curaçao, and fresh fruit juice. It was all pretty good.


We bummed through a few Disney shops (I was hoping to find a new Tinkerbell mug - no luck) then decided we were ready to go check in to our hotel. It was a long day of travel with little sleep for either of us, and we were ready to rest.

We stayed at the same hotel we had the year previously - Country Inn and Suites on Universal Boulevard. I had looked at the resorts for both Disney and Universal, but since neither offer shuttles to BOTH sets of parks, they weren't very appealing. Plus, I can't justify spending that much just for a place to sleep. The Country Inn on Universal isn't anything fancy, but its clean, inexpensive, and good enough to sleep. They offer a minimal continental breakfast, but since I don't ever eat anything from hotel breakfast anyway, it wasn't a bit deal. They did have a little store that we bought soda/snacks from as needed which was nice. Honestly, you can't beat the price for an Orlando hotel. Especially since its only five minutes from Universal Studios parks.

Ike caught up on sleep to mitigate a migraine and I spent the night reading my book. I ordered us pizza from Giordano’s, since we had success with it last year. The pizza was pretty good, but the garlic bread I could have done without.

Monday, October 10, 2022

I woke up before my 6:00 alarm and got ready for the day. Breakfast at the hotel was very underwhelming, but for $75 a night in Orlando, I’m not complaining. 

I joined both a Disney and Universal group on Facebook after our last trip once we knew we were going again to see if there were any other tips and tricks I should know. A common discussion in those groups are what the MUST BRINGS into the parks are. Some people pack whole strollers of stuff! They don’t have kids that go in the stroller, it’s just for their things!! Not me. I chose to wear a fanny pack because you can wear it on almost all the rides at Universal & Islands of Adventure. (The only ones you can't are Velocicoaster, Hulk, and Riptide - but there are free lockers to use to store it while on the ride). 

What I Packed in My Fanny Pack:

  • Tylenol
  • Migraine meds
  • Motion sickness meds
  • Wallet (cash, credit cards, ID, car/health insurance cards)
  • Chapstick
  • Car key
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Portable phone charger (I ended up not needing it the first couple days, so I stopped bringing it)

After missing our turn to the parking garage (just like last year) we ended up parking at about 7:40, and we lined up outside Universal Studios just in time for them to start letting people in at 7:50.

We headed straight for Escape From Gringotts, knowing that the line gets long FAST. We entered the line at 8:10A and were in the beginning of the ride by 8:14A; it was AWESOME! By the time we circled back around to the beginning after getting off the ride, the line was packed down the alleyway!

It was only 8:30, and since Islands of Adventure didn’t open until 9, we decided to make a bathroom stop, then get some butterbeer. Ike likes the drink the best; I like the butterscotch “foam.” We both agree that the cold is better than the frozen, but neither of us have tried the hot.



We took our drinks and got in line for the Hogwarts Express to take us over to IOA. We got in line at 8:50ish, and though it said the ride didn’t start until 9, the line kept moving the whole time we were in it, and we were on by 9:05. The nice thing is that you get to bring your drinks on the train with you. I thought maybe you would get to watch the parks pass by on the train, but it is an actual ride with its own situation going on inside the compartments.




As soon as we got to Islands, we headed straight to Velocicoaster. It was every bit as awesome as I remembered it! We got in line at 9:30, and though the wait said it was 45 minutes, we were on by 9:45. Just like last year, I had a minimal headache at the end of the ride. I noticed that I tense my back up to keep my head from bopping around, which gives me the headache. Oops.

From there, we went to Kong. We got in line at 10A, and though the line said it was a 25 minute wait, we waited less than 15.

Next up was the Hulk coaster. The wait for this was posted 75 minutes, but we’d had such good luck this far, we figured it would be significantly shorter. We were wrong. We got in line at 10:30, and moved at a snails pace. We were close to the top when they announced (11:55A) that the ride was experiencing a difficultly. Whatever it was, they fixed it quickly and were were on the ride by 12:10.

We grabbed a drink to attempt to stay hydrated, then began the trek back to Hogsmeade. We got in line for the Three Broomsticks at about 12:30, and were seated by one. I had the beef pasties with a garden salad, and Ike got the same thing he had last year- the spare ribs platter with roasted corn on the cob and potatoes. The beef pasties were pretty good, but I think the rotisserie chicken I had last year was better. The nice thing about the Three Broomsticks was that you wait in line to order, then pick your food up right away, then they seat you. It is a very smooth operation.


We got back in line for the Hogwarts Express at about 1:30, for an accurately posted 55 minutes. I was so tired, I truly thought I was going to fall asleep waiting in line for the train. I DEFINITELY dozed while on the train.


Back in Diagon Alley, we headed to Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlor, where I got some delicious butterbeer ice cream. Ike had chocolate raspberry which he said was also delicious! The line was out the door and wrapped around the building when we approached, but it moved quickly.


On our way to the Mummy ride, we saw some “construction” workers performing drum sequences with their “tools.” It was pretty impressive and very amusing. 

We got to Revenge of the Mummy at 3:23, and though it was posted 75 minutes for the wait time, we waited less than 15. Unfortunately, the guy sitting behind me thought it would be fun to scream the whole time, and between that and all the coasters today, my head was pounding.

I grabbed a water and took a migraine med, and we headed to the Fast & Furious ride. I thought I could tough it out. The line was short, but the ride broke down while we were in it. The upside was that the building that the line was is was VERY air conditioned. After waiting about 15 minutes, we decided to go get food and go back to the hotel. My head hurt and we both could have fallen asleep standing up at this point.

I decided to try Bend the Bao for dinner. I got two Bao buns: the Kimchee FC (kimchee fried chicken, kimchee butter, gochujang, cucumber, scallion, and sriracha aioli) and the duck (braised duck, kimchee slaw, XO sauce, cilantro, 5-spice aioli). The fried chicken one was pretty good, and the duck one was just okay.


Back at the hotel, we tried our darndest to stay up until a reasonable hour to go to bed, but we’re both sleeping in and out by probably 6. I took a quick shower to try and loosen my tense muscles, but I just wanted to go to bed! As I finish typing this, it’s about 7:30, and my eyeballs are barely staying open. And to is only 6:30PM at home!

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

After getting in the car at the hotel, I saw the check engine light was on. I was not in the mood to deal with car stuff, so much like my low tire light on Sunday, I crossed my fingers and hoped we’d safely make it down the road to Universal. We parked and headed in to the park right away. The app said it opened at 9, and there was no early admission. We got there at about 8, and they let us in soon after. We were shocked and excited! Only to be stopped in Dr.Seussland because we didn’t have hotel room keys. Turns out they did have early admission after all. Luckily, they still let us in at about 8:45. Unluckily, by the time we made it to Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, the wait was already 150 minutes and extended through Hogsmeade to the amphitheater in The Lost Continent section. We knew the line wouldn’t really get shorter, so we stood in it anyway. We were in line at 8:48, to the castle by 9:56, then on the ride at about 10:44, so it was really only about a 120 minute wait. The line moved the whole time, so it went quickly.

I did read that the line would get shorter later at night, but I didn't want to risk waiting in case we decided not to stay that long.


After the ride, we went to the Hogs Head for some drinks. Ike got butterbeer, and I got a Pear Drizzle (vodka, lemonade, pear cider) which was very tasty though made me a little tipsy for the Hogwarts Express ride over to Universal. 


Once at Universal we went to the Fast & the Furious- Supercharged ride. The wait said an hour but I think it was much shorter. The line moved very fast.

From there we went back to Diagon Alley to get lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. Our experience here was less impressive than at the Three Broomsticks, and also less impressive than when we went last year.

We had to order via mobile app which was annoying because service was spotty once you're in the building in line. I got the fish and chips. The fish was delicious, but I needed more tartar sauce, and would have liked a cup of water, but the app didn’t give me those options. The fries were okay, but I didn't eat many of them since I ran out of tartar sauce (and that is my dip of choice for fries). Once you order on the app, you go through the queue and someone will either seat you, or direct you to go find a table. It seemed much more organized and made more sense last year when you ordered at the register, then were seated. Both times, however, the food was brought to us.


Next we went to the Jimmy Fallon - Race Through New York ride. The line was short and there was entertainment while you waited- AND you got to sit in the AC, which was nice. It was hot out! 

We made our way back to Diagon Alley one last time to browse the shops and so Ike could get ice cream. By this point we’d done everything we wanted and I needed to figure out the rental car situation, so we headed back to the parking garage.

I called Alamo from the parking garage, and the lady who answered said she would message the specific place I got it from and they would give me a call. I drove us back to the hotel and waited an hour with no call from Alamo, so I called again. This time the lady who answered told me I could either continue driving it (since the light wasn't flashing) or bring it back to the airport to exchange. I was concerned about having bigger issues when I had to leave for the airport at 3AM later in the week, so I opted for the exchange.

It was a quick and easy process, thankfully, just a bit of a nuisance.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

I woke up before 6 again, but made myself go back to sleep. Epcot didn’t open until 8:30, and since we were trying to get into any rides right away, we didn’t feel the need to rush. I did however get up at 6:45 because the Guardians of the Galaxy virtual queue opened at 7. In order to get on this ride, you MUST join the virtual queue that opens at 7 (if you have Epcot park reservations) or again at 1 (for anyone who is in the park). I joined right at 6:58AM and refreshed until 7AM and got boarding group 61. It originally told me that our boarding time would be around 1:51PM (this would not end up being the case). A side note if you're reading this for advice - disconnect your phone from wifi before doing this. Wifi seems to slow down the process (especially if you're on Disney property) and people seem to be missing out due to that.

We took our time getting ready and skipped breakfast since we planned on eating as soon as we got to Epcot. 


Traffic wasn’t too bad, and parking was easy. We got to Epcot right around 8:30 and got in right away. I was excited to start eating my way around the world!! Only to be let down…. 

Unfortunately, the food doesn’t open up until 10:30-11. We decided to walk around the world since there wasn’t anyone there, and happened to stumble upon Belgium which was partially open, selling only their waffles at this time. No problem! A waffle was on my “to eat” list and now I didn’t have to risk being hangry. 


After much deliberation, we decided to head over to Test Track and get in line. The wait was about an hour, but we were designing our car within 40 minutes. I remember when Test Track was the main attraction  at Epcot.

By the time we were done with Test Track, we still had at least an hour before our queue time for Guardians. We had a couple small snacks to tide us over, but nothing that would make our stomachs upset on the ride (even though we had no idea what to expect).

I kept refreshing my app to see if our time had changed to board Guardians. As I mentioned, it was 1:51P when I claimed it this morning, then it switched to 11:45 by the time I got to the park, the it fluctuated between 11:29 and 12:03 during the next couple hours. It was finally time to board at 11:49A! Even though you have an hour after your call time to show up, we went right away. Partially because we were excited to try out this new ride, partially because we were ready to get our EAT ON!

Once in the queue, we waited in line about an hour, but the line was pretty continuously moving. Y’all this ride was AWESOME!!! SO much better than I even expected!! You can keep your bags by your feet (I kept my Fanny pack on and held onto my ears) but the car you’re in turns forwards and backwards and sideways and did I mention it’s AWESOME?!? I was bummed we could only do it once, but also that’s probably a good thing because I think I could have ridden it all day. They have 6 different songs you can get - we had “One Way or Another,” and it was, you guessed it, AWESOME!!

We spent the rest of the day eating around the world. We also went on the Nemo ride one so we could rest, as well as Spaceship Earth twice (once in English, once in French) because that is the best nap time.

Favorite Shirt I Saw Today:

Encanto-style shirt saying “Disney Got Me Feeling Un Poco Broke-o”

Food from the International Food & Wine Festival

Belgium: Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote And Whipped Cream (4.5/⭐️)


The Fry Basket: Adobo Yuca Fries with Garlic Cilantro Aïoli (3.5/5⭐️)
- fries were a little hard, but the flavor was excellent


Shimmering Sips: Guava Mousse On A Sugar Cookie With Coconut Lime Whipped Cream (3.5/5⭐️)


China: DanDan Noodles: Spicy Pork With Sichuan Sauce, Peanut Butter, Sesame, And Green Onions (3/5⭐️)
- good kick, not a ton of flavor, also the noodles were definitely spaghetti noodles??


China: Drink: Passion Fruit Bubble Tea (Non-Alcoholic) (3.5/5⭐️)
- probably better than I rated it, turns out maybe I just don't like passion fruit?


The Alps: Warm Raclette Swiss cheese With Alpine Ham, Baby Potatoes, Cornichons, And Baguette (4/5⭐️)


Germany: Apple Strudel With Vanilla Sauce (3/5

- not a lot of flavor, hard to eat with a plastic fork,


Germany: Roasted Bratwurst In A Pretzel Roll (3/5⭐️)

- undercooked, mustard was good, pretzel bun was good texture but not a lot of flavor


Spain: Charcuterie With A Selection Of Of Imported Spanish Meats, Cheese, Olives, And An Herbed Vinaigrette (4/5⭐️)
- good flavor, spicy meat, 


Italy: Panna Cotta: Orange Blossom Panna Cotta With Seasonal Berries (4/5


Japan: Teriyaki Chicken Bun: Steamed Bun Filled With Chicken, Vegetables, And Teriyaki Sauce (4/5⭐️)


Hawaii: Passion Fruit Cheesecake With Toasted Macadamia Nuts (3.5/5⭐️)
- good flavor, would have been better with a crust on the bottom


Thursday, October 13, 2022

I woke up at 6:15 this morning to check in for my 6:20A flight with Southwest tomorrow. Then, I stayed up to get another spot in the virtual queue for Guardians again. That ride was too great to only do it once! Plus we wanted to see if we really thought it was the number one ride of the trip, or if we just thought it yesterday since it was new (spoiler: it was! Even better than Velocicoaster, we thought!) Even though I was ready to go by 7, our boarding group wasn't until group 1:21, originally scheduled for 6PM! That was going to put a damper on our eating plans...

I had tried to go back to sleep, but no luck. We still didn't leave the hotel until 8:30 and got to the park about 9. We went right to Belgium again and both got the waffle we didn't get yesterday. There was another little treat that I saw on Facebook that looked good and wasn't part of the festival, so we went on got that from The Land Pavilion next. Ike got a chocolate filled croissant and said it was delicious. Since we were already there, we decided to do the Living on the Land boat ride next. It sounded kind of lame, but we needed to kill time until 10:30 when we could eat. It was actually pretty interesting!

Our plan was to eat from 10:30 until 2, then stop and let our tummies settle before our likely 4:00 boarding time for Guardians. We ate at a couple places, then went and got in line for Remy's Ratatouille. The line was 85 minutes, which was longer than we wanted to wait, but we had already eaten a lot and needed to rest before we continues.

The queue for Remy's was my least favorite. A lot of it was outside and it was HUMID. Then once we got inside, some of the places were very echo-y and it got super loud. 

This was our first time on this ride as well, and while it was fun, I would not wait in line for 85 minutes for it again (though I think the wait was closer to an hour).

We ate some more before heading to one of my favorite rides - Spaceship Earth! This time, we did it in Spanish. I shockingly kept my eyes open the whole time! Usually I doze in and out (that's why it is one of my favorites :P). By then it was about 2:30 so we got one more snack and headed back to the Land pavilion to wait in line for Soarin' Around the World. I had no idea what this ride was. The line was about 65 minutes, and we figured that was perfect timing to get us to Guardians since we had to pause our eating anyway. It turned out to be such a cool ride! We were in the front row, so we "soared" the highest. I would probably wait an hour for that again. Especially because the wait is in an air conditioned line.

Then...back to Guardians! This time, we got the song "I Run." It was just as awesome as yesterday, though I did think yesterday's song was a cooler choice.

After all that not-eating, I was ready to roll! We hit up another half dozen countries before feeling satisfied for the day. Honestly, I could use another day to truly eat everything I wanted, but we got a real good chunk taken care of! I was surprisingly not tired for it being park day 4 and already 6:00. If I wasn't fully, I definitely could have stayed longer. That being said, we knew we would have an early morning and needed to get back to the hotel at a reasonable hour - which meant we DEFINTIELY needed to leave before the fireworks.

My Favorite Shirt of the Day:

Picture of one of the Epcot garbage cans with the text "Festival Tables."

(The running joke is that there is not enough tables/seating for the Food & Wine Festival, and everyone uses whatever they can find to eat at, including the garbage cans!

Food from the International Food & Wine Festival

Belgium: Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache (4/5⭐️)


Sunshine Seasons (The Land Pavillion): Lemon Chiffon Cake with Blueberry Filling (4.5/5⭐️)


Canada: “Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon With Truffle-Butter Sauce (5/5⭐️)

Canada: Canadian Cheddar And Bacon Soup Served With A Pretzel Roll (3.5/5⭐️)


Belgium: Beer-Braised Beef Served With Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes (4.5/5⭐️)
- good except the distinct beer taste I would randomly get strong tastes of 


Brazil: Pão De Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread (4/5⭐️)
- cheese baked right into the bread, yum!


Brazil: Drink: Frozen Caipirinha With Cachaça  (2.5/5⭐️)
- tastes like margarita mix sans tequila


France: Crème Brûlée Vanilla À La Configure De Framboises: Vanilla Crème Brûlée With House-Made Raspberry Jam (3.75/5⭐️)


Italy: Gnocchi Di Patate: Potato Dumplings With Vodka Sauce, Romano Cheese, And Crispy Bacon (4.5/5⭐️)


Australia: Roasted Lamb Chip With Mint Pesto And Potato Crunchies (4/5⭐️)


Australia: Lamination: Yellow Cake With Raspberry Filling Dipped In Chocolate And Coconut (4.5/5⭐️)


Mexico: Taco Al Pastor: Seared Pork Belly Pastor On A Corn Tortilla With Chipotle Black Beans, Pineapple, Pickled Onions, And Chives (3.75/5⭐️)


China: Pan-Fried Chicken Dumplings With House-Made Sweet-and-Spicy Sauce (4/5⭐️)


Italy: Gnocchi Di Patate: Potato Dumplings With Four-cheese Sauce And Roasted Cremini Mushrooms (3.5/5⭐️)

USA: Mini Piña Colada Funnel Cake With Piña Colada Ice Cream, Whipped Cream, Toasted Coconut, And Maraschino Cherry Drizzled With Coconut-Rum Sauce (4.5/5⭐️)


Friday, October 14, 2022

Ah, the beautiful time of 3:00 came much too soon. Actually, I really can't complain too much. I thought I would really struggle to get up, considering last night I didn't go to bed any earlier than usual, but I was surprisingly awake.

We cleaned up, checked out, and headed out to the airport. Now my flight wasn't until 6:20, but MCO airport is known for having 3 hour waits at TSA, even at 5AM, and I didn't want to risk it. Car drop off was easy, and we were through TSA in less than five minutes.

MCO isn't set up very well in terms of terminal changes. I was set to depart from one terminal, and my brother another. His flight got pushed back to 2PM, so he came and sat with me until I boarded before heading to his terminal. However, to get to it, he had to leave and go back through TSA. He said the line was long, but it only took about a half hour.

I had a quick one-hour layover in New Orleans and was back in Nashville by 9:45AM. I even put air in my tires and got that darn light to go away! 

It will be nice to sleep in my own bed today, but I definitely was not ready for this trip to end!

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