I have been gone...

Hello there friends!

I wanted to take a moment and pop back up to write another blog! It has been a while and I wanted to share why I have been MIA over the next few weeks.

As you know, I am a pretty open person so for me to drop off without an explanation seems a bit weird - so here I go. As an Independent Travel Agent I am always super excited to share my experiences with you - good and bad - to make sure you have the best experience with your vacation. Well I am here to tell you that I didn't have the best vacation in October and it wasn't for the reason you think (although many of you who read this already know!). Join me now while I tell you why I have been gone and what you should not do while traveling!

First off - the trip I took to Orlando was primarily a Birthday trip and a business trip second. With that in mind - this trip was already stressful as I have another job currently which carries a high stress load that was going to fall behind while I was gone for 3 days and I made some rookie mistakes on the trip (more on that later). Let me set the scene for you though: my friend and I are leaving at 10am on United Airlines on a Wednesday to arrive midday at Universal Studios Orlando and leaving the following Sunday. We had plans to do a half day Wednesday and all day Friday and Saturday with anything we wanted to finish up with on Sunday before our 7pm flight back.

Things did not get off to a good start as first of all we missed our plane. Let us just say it was a rocky morning and learn from this rookie mistake - use a shuttle or at least know how far your parking structure is from the airport. This was my first rookie mistake. I have not flown in a while and so I was not as well versed on the policies of LAX as I am a San Diego Boy. With that - just do a shuttle. Its probably just as much if not less. If you can - use Uber or Lyft. So - now that we were late, the real nightmare of flying happened.

United Airlines had the best flight options for both timing and pricing at the time I booked. I was promised to have the middle seats open and when I checked in 24 hours prior, my ticket and my friend joining me were indeed separated. Little did I know that after I had confirmed my seats United would send an email stating they may not be able to accomodate the "guarantee". Little did we know what this would mean later. So we missed our flight - there is no other flight until the red-eye. We get new seats and once again it looked like we would have the middle seat between us open.

Luckily I was wanting to celebrate and so I had already booked myself Club Access as we had a layover for a few hours. Well, I am glad I did because 8 hours was well spent in that club waiting for our plane. This was probably where the highlights of our United experience end. The snacks and drinks were plenty and the staff were the friendliest of the bunch. I truly appreciated them all. The real horrors were now to begin As the club closed well before our flight.

Now let us talk about the actual flight. We were supposed to leave at 11:30pm from LA to arrive in Orlando at 1pm the next day With a 3 hour layover in Chicago. Not the best but hey - I needed a vacation. We get to the gate and it seems pretty busy. We were a few hours early as the club closed and figured they were people who were from other flights. Little did we know we were all about to be crammed onto a full plane. In the time of a pandemic... yeah - I had a few choice words. Nevertheless I was tired and ready to get away. I sit against the window and prepared for the long flight to our next stop - Chicago.

We touch down and have 3 hours before our next flight to Orlando. We grab some Starbucks (God Bless) and wait. The next flight was the only flight we had a separation in our seats - granted we were only a select few who had the extra room. We were thankful still and ready to be at Universal Studios Orlando! The flight was fine and we arrived - we headed immediately towards the Universal Gift Shop to change out our face masks for something more appropriate. Sadly they did not have what we wanted (Harry Potter House Masks) and we moved on to finding our Super Star Shuttle Service to transport us to our Destination!

We stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Studios Orlando. The trip to get there was uneventful although the wait was a bit more than advertised at 45 mins instead of 30 although to be fair there had just been a huge down poor which may have caused some traffic delays. I will say the Royal Pacific Resort is quite possibly my favorite hotel on-site Universal Studios Orlando has to offer! The view we had was by far the best part of the stay. Waking up to seeing the Islands of Adventure Theme Park every morning is something I truly miss. That was definitely one of my favorite "Whoa!" moments.

Universal Studios Orlando has 3 Theme Parks available to guests - Universal Studios Orlando, Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, and the seasonal Volcano Bay Water Park. I will have another blog to review all of the adventures we had there as that will be a much more fun post to write! To finish this blog out, I will talk about the return back.

On our departure day, Sunday, the Super Star Shuttle contacted us to let us know to be ready to leave 3 hours before our flight - this time I knew we wouldn't miss our plane! We waited for the shuttle bus and chatted with the parking attendant helping with traffic control as valet was still not an option with Covid restrictions. The shuttle arrives and we head out with 2 other families returning from our hotel. We stop off at one more stop to pick up an additional family at another resort before heading to the airport. The 30 minute drive is filled with laugher and chatting of how much fun everyone all had. We excitingly, yet with dread, return to the airport.

The check-in process was fine and we learned one of our bags was 5 pounds over the limit. After some careful tetris, we made it work between the two bags because I was not going to pay this company any more of my money. This is also where I made my second rookie mistake and did not check an oversized souvenir from the parks and accidentally lost it while walking through security. Lesson learned for next time.

The flight itself was once again packed to the fullest with no seats left behind. Sadly we were stuck next to a family of a couple with 3 young children - which did not help me with my Covid anxiety already. Again I took the window and we joked as I sacrificed my friend to the family. While we were mostly lucky with the infant in the fathers lap, the two toddlers with the mother on the other side of the isle were not having a fun time. The 4 hour flight felt like 10. I was ready to be home.

We arrived back on solid ground and proceeded to grab our luggage. I will say this process actually exceeded my expectations and by the time we arrived to the conveyor belt of suitcases, it was already in motion with several bags being loaded on. Our bags quickly arrived and we headed to the dreaded parking garage to reclaim my car. This was once again an unpleasant experience and a few choice words echoed in the garage as I drove off after having to pay an additional $5 for their delays. After safely dropping off my friend at their house I proceeded with the final leg of the journey.

I was greeted by my fur children with all the affection and love of two abandoned kittens. I crawled into my bed after a cuddle session and went to sleep finally dreaming of the happy times I had. Would I be back? You bet your butt I would. Will it be with United - let’s just say that’s gonna be a hard pass.

Until I write again,

Your Covid Conscious Travel Agent -

Patrick O'Connor

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