Why it does (not) WORTH to go to Florida during Christmas (December 26th – December 31st 2018)
Calendar was showing December 17th and my host mom just told me that during the Christmas vacation she and kids will go for a ski trip and if I want I can join them. If I don´t want to join them I can have my own vacation week. Despite the fact that I´d love to go skiing, I decided to enjoy this time (I had names day, going to have birthday and Christmas were coming as well) and invest into myself for a trip to the warm and sunny weather – to Florida. As a spontaneous idea it was perfect but if I knew how much I was going to pay, I would have re-considered that ski trip. But money always were, are and will be, right? And if you can go to Florida, you should go!
This day in the evening I started to search for a flight tickets. My first plan was to come to Orlando and leave Florida from Miami but after I saw the prices, I changed my mind. Return tickets from Orlando were too much – it was around $400-$600 because it was holiday time and everybody wants to go to Florida at that time right…
Literally the whole following day I spent by searching for a cheap and fast flight. I started at 6:30am when the tickets were around $200 but every time they got sold out before I was able to make checkout. Prices were changing approx. every 20minutes. So around the lunchtime I was already frustrated because none of mine cheap reservations got confirmed (every time I got an announcement “ooops, this flight´s price ticked has been changed to $550” or more…). It was like a joke. And so around 4pm I got so upset that I just bought straight and fast flight ticket for an average price. You can´t imagine how awesome I was feeling after that.
Okay, so I have the flight ticket but what can I do on Florida?
I opened my old friend Google and by the evening my itinerary was done and by December 19th I got everything booked.
Dec 26th 7:44pm-11:05pm flight from Boston to Orlando
Dec 27th Universal Studios (Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley!!)
Dec 28th 10am-12:30pm free walking tour
Afternoon – Greeenwood cemetery
5pm-9:45pm travel to Miami
Dec 29th Hop on Hop off
Must see places:
– Market Place
– Little Havana (Maximo Goméz Park and Cuban Memorial Blvd Park)
– South Beach (art deco district)
– Wynwood Walls
– Lincold Road (Holocaust Memorial)
Dec 30th National Park Everglades
5:30pm-10pm travel to Orlando
Dec 31th Downtown Disney
Harry P Leu Botanical Garden
6:44-9:34pm flight from Orlando to Boston
Midnight – New Year celebration in Boston!
Day 1: December 26th 2018
My flight didn´t get cancelled this time and in the late evening I landed in Orlando. I called an UBER and suddenly a cold price shower went through me. At the end I found out that my accommodation was over 60km away from the airport and that UBER price actually made sense.
At midnight I was standing in front of my house and I was trying to get in. I was knocking on the door and some Spanish speaking girl opened the door. She was trying to explain me that unless I´m not Maria, she won´t let me in. She wasn´t interested in my reservation and she told me that I am not supposed to be there. Then she closed the door in front of my face. One minute later, she suddenly opened the door again, mumbling something and on my question “where am I supposed to go at the midnight?” she just bend her arms and shut the door again. The front door got opened for the third time. There was the very same Spanish speaking girl standing with some guy – the owner. He apologized to me and explained me that he was expecting me and some Maria girl and he let me go in.
During the following hour another cold shower went through my body and I came to a conclusion that next time when I will be booking an accommodation the cheapest doesn´t mean the best or an average (of course).
So, here is a small description:
– Rule Nr. 1: in this house you have to walk bare feet
– The house has two bathrooms but only in one of them you´ll find a warm water. From the pictures in gallery you can guess in which one was that (in the worse one)
– Rule Nr. 2: we were not allowed to throw away toilet paper into the toilet (but I don´t think somebody takes out the trash either… so gross)
– In my bed there was “a hole” made out from all the people who were sleeping there before me. I had to put myself into a certain position to be “comfy”
– In our room which I was sharing with seven more people none of the windows were possible to be opened (for a while I was thinking that there weren´t windows at all)
Tired from the whole day I took a claustrophobic but hot shower, laid down into the hole in my bed and enjoyed some sleep because I had an adventurous day ahead!
Tip: The last day I found out about SuperShuttle app. I was being told that you can book an airport shuttle ahead and the price should be always around $15!
Day 2: December 27th 2018 (The day I spent by waiting in the lines)
I woke up at 7am and at 7:20am I was already standing on the street, brushing my hair and waiting for my driver to the Universal Studios where I spent the whole day (7:50am-10pm).
Before the entrance to the Universal Studios I had to make a decision: do I want to go to Universal Studios or Island of Adventures? Later that day I found out that Universal Studios is more oriented for families with kids and Island of Adventures is more about rollercoaster and fun. To be honest I didn´t know that Universal Studios are about rollercoaster at all. So what I did was I went to a line with people not knowing what was I standing for and waiting to get a turn. After 30minutes of waiting it was mine time and after 5more minutes, pale like a wall I left my first rollercoaster. I forgot to mention that my stomach hates rollercoasters and this park was full of them… But since I already paid for it I had to try all of them, right? And this is how my Day that I spent by waiting in lines began.
For all of the attractions I successfully made (and honestly it is impossible to wait in the lines all the day just for a 5miutes of drive and then just move to another line…), I´ve created following TOP chart:
- Revenge of the Mummy (seriously I almost threw up here, but if I had more time, I´d do that ride again!)
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (Average time of waiting was 3hours! I was waiting over 2hours there but mostly because the attraction got broken and we were waiting for fixing it. But imagine that you´re there in the line, alone, with no water or food. By the time it was my turn I thought that I´ll faint. And I had no idea that my stomach will suffer during the ride even more… But because I liked it at the end of the day I decided to go there one more time… It´s Harry Potter!!)
3. Fast and Furious
4. The Simpsons ride
- Men in Black: Allien Attack (For a while you become a killer with a gun in your hands. It was awesome until the embarrassing moment when I found out that the little kid sitting in fron of me killed more beasts than I did…)
The shortest waiting time was early in the morning and in the late evening. During the day it was around 2hours everywhere! Around 4pm the waiting time went down up to 80minutes and after 8:30pm it was about 30minutes of waiting. The advantage you can get is if you are a single rider – like me. At some of the attractions there is a special line for such people and they put you on a ride earlier if there´s a single spot on the rollercoaster. So your waiting time is shorter but not for that much.
The best thing about this day was my drive home. Park was leaving hundreds of people and I succeeded with getting an UBER after over an hour!
In Orlando everything is too far away. For example Universal Studios is 14km away from Walt Disney Resort. My accommodation was 11km away from Universal Studio and 13km away from Orlando´s Downtown. If you want to use local public transportation, your trip will last about 1,5-3hours. UBER and Lyft are probably not that much popular here because I had to pay way too much for my drive and despite I asked for a carpool drive, I was always alone. So if you don´t have your own car (gas here is incredibly cheap), try following: watch out for UBER/Lyft driver and go towards to him and ask them that if they won´t take you somewhere if you give them cash. I got information that those companies take about 40-50% from the ride price. So it is better deal for the driver to take cash and you will save some money.
Tip 2: If you decide to go to Universal Studios, Christmas and summer holidays are the worst time to go there. You will spend hours by waiting in the lines – rollercoaster ones or food lines. The best time to come here are the first September weeks – nobody is here and you can make Universal Studios and Island of Adventures within one day!
Day 3: December 28th 2018
I woke up at 7am again and at 8am I was already sitting in the Starbucks enjoying my breakfast. I wanted to attend a free walking tour but when I called them they told me that they don´t do them these days. So I typed down all the places and things I wanted to see and made my own sightseeing tour of Orlando. Out of 20 places I found 14 (without any map). That wasn´t bad at all. So if you like want to know what to see here, here we go:
Well´s Built Hotel
Dr. William Monroe Wells House – rebuilt into Museum of African-American history and culture – I recommend! Entrance fee was $7.
Victorian House and Cottage
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church
Ebenezer Methodist Church
Selmons Department Store
Bumby Hardware Building
Old Orlando Railroad Depot
First National Bank
Orlando Bank and Trust Company
Carey Hand Funeral Home
Elijah Hand Building
Dickson-Ives Department Store
The State Bank of Orlando and Trust
Sightseeing day I finished by visiting Orange County Regional History Center, walk around amazing Lake Eloa and visiting cemetery Greenwood. At the late afternoon there was only one thing to do: move to Miami!!
Accommodation in Miami was just another disappointment. For a change there wasn´t anything like a common room, some guests were sleeping literally on a couch and we didn´t get any towels (so I used my shirt…). On the other side, my bed was finally comfy and in the bathroom (that I was sharing with 9 more people) was a hot water! And we had a window in our room but the sign said: “Do not open”…. Goodnight!
Day 4: December 29th 2018
For today I planned Hop on Hop off tour. After another early morning getting up (I am on vacation right?) at 8am I was already somewhere in Miami Downtown, drinking Starbucks coffee and waiting for the first Hop on Hop off bus to go. We left at 9am and around 9:20 I was calling home to my mom to let her know that I am on a warm Miami Beach. Everything went as I planned: I enjoyed the ocean, walked around the Ocean Drive, saw a Holocaust memorial, finished both lines of the tour… Walked around the Wynwood and Little Havana and at the evening I went back to the South Beach on the Ocean Drive. Everything was great the only problem I had was that I wasn´t expecting such a hot weather and I didn´t have a short pants and I was sweating so much and couldn´t even go to the ocean… Yup, it is really hot in Miami! Don´t forget your bathing suit!
After a walk on the Ocean Drive I decided to walk to the bridge that was connecting Miami Beach with Miami when suddenly I saw a travel agency Miami Tours. I checked out their products and then I realized that I wanted to go to the Everglades on the following day and they were offering a tour over there (I also didn´t have a plan how go get there…). I looked at their price list and as I was comparing prices with the UBER prices, I had realized that it really worth it to book the tour. Unfortunately I forgot to check those prices with online bookings (I was just too tired) and on the following day I found out that I could have saved even more. But still people in the travel agency were really nice and they gave me a children price!
Day 5: December 30th 2018
Your night in the airbnb can be following: early in the morning you´ll wake up because your roommate just came back from the party and obviously he was texting to somebody. When texting wasn´t good enough, he switched to a voice messaging. Suddenly the person from the other side of the phone calls to the guy and even after you get up to use the bathroom, your roommate won´t realize that he woke you up and you are trying to sleep. When he finally ended his call, the person from the other side of the phone called him again. And I was just wondering why I was the only person that he woke up…
A trip to the Everglades was amazing! The planning was great. At 8:30am the bus picked up tourists from three different spots around Miami and at 9:30 we left to the National Park Everglades. I was picked up at the Holiday Inn hotel on a Biscayne Blvd in the Downtown. And I got a coffee in the hotel for free!
Time management of this trip was following:
8:30-9:20am Hotel pick up
9:20-9:30am Quick registration in Miami Tours office
9:30-10am Transfer to the NP Everglades
10:20-11:00am Ride on the airboat
11-11:40am Alligator show
11:40-12:40pm Free time (I went on the airboat again for free!)
12:50-1:20pm Transfer to Miami
After that I had to move to the airport because that was a place where my bus to Orlando was leaving from. As I was trying to save up some money, I decided to try local public transportation. A one way ticket to the airport cost only $2,50 and it took about 30minutes to get there.
Around 10pm my taxi driver in Orlando dropped me off on my last place where I was spending a night. When he came there I asked him if he didn´t mess up the address. We checked it several times and he was correct – a nice new apartment building. I entered mine entrance and I saw something I wasn´t even dreaming about – a clean and cozy place full of nice people with who I was talking to until 2am! Two of them actually work in Universal Studios (which was located behind the corner) and one of the girls was also an au pair!
Day 6: December 31st 2018
Since my flight back to Boston was in the evening, I decided to enjoy this day as much as I could! After morning walk with my roommate to the gas station where we bought finally cheap breakfast I packed my things and left to the Harry P Leu Botanical Garden. It is a beautiful botanical garden perfect for romantic walks, there are butterflies, lizards in the bushes and… one big black and fat SNAKE!! As I wanted to smell one tree´s flower I almost stepped on a snake! I think you can imagine how I was running out of there! Nope, I don´t think that huge snakes belong to the botanical garden and I don´t want to know how this one got here either…
After 2hours of walking and thinking about how beautiful is life I caught an UBER driver on a parking lot and asked him if he can drive me to the Disney Springs for $14. Disney Springs is a shopping-entertainment center close to the Disney World Resort. I was wandering around for a bit and then I called a ride to the airport because if I take a public transportation the way would last about 2hours!
So these were my amazing memories from the sunny Florida. But why it does (not) worth to go to Florida during Christmas? Because everybody comes here. And I successfully got broke after this vacation.
Let´s see the calculations:
– Return flight ticket 360 EUR (if it wasn´t during the season I´d pay half of the price…)
– Accommodation Orlando (2 nights, bunk bed) 40 + 4,4 EUR penalty for night check in + 0,9 EUR for a towel
– Accommodation Miami (2 nights, bunk bed) 35 EUR
– Accommodation Orlando (1 night, bunk bed) 30 EUR
– Food 112 EUR
– All UBER and Lyft transfers 160 EUR
– Bus ticket Orlando-Miami 12 EUR
– Bus ticket Miami-Orlando 13 EUR
– Entrance fee Universal Studios 121 EUR
– Hop on Hop off Miami 39 EUR
– Harry P Leu Botanical Garden 9 EUR
– Everglades 50 EUR
– African-American History Museum 4,50 EUR
– Orange County Regional Museum 6 EUR
ALL TOGETHER: 996,80 EUR
This is what I call a Christmas gift!
I wish you a Happy New Year from the cozy home (I didn´t stay in Boston because it was raining)!