The wonderful world of Walt Disney - Day 1: Our journey to Orlando

I have never been to Disney before this trip. I'd never been to Florida or anywhere in the southeast region of the United States before this year. And I was never a crazy Disney fan - I had favourite movies going up like Mary Poppins, Pete's Dragon, Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, but I was in no way fanatical about any of it. Although doing Disney was on my bucket list and when mom suggested doing a trip there the year before I thought it would be a fun, different adventure to what we normally do.

Our plan was to hit Disney and Universal Studios. Mom had been to Universal Studios before in California many moons ago and brought back cool pics of movie memorabilia there. Like the KITT car from Knight Rider - which I was a little obsessed about when I was younger (...but that's a different blog post :) so I really was looking forward to going. And I was looking forward to the Harry Potter experience which I also am a big fan of. We purchased an Air Canada Vacations package which turned out to be an amazing deal! For a little over $600 dollars we each had flights from Toronto to Orlando return on Air Canada (my favourite airline), and a week in an Embassy Suites hotel. This hotel was perfect.

The rooms were huge with separate dining and living spaces with a full kitchenette. Outside our door was a large outdoor pool that featured movies by the pool every night - Disney movies of course (great for the kids), and for the adults there was a happy hour every afternoon with free unlimited alcoholic beverage of the day and munchies like popcorn, chips, salsa, etc. They also have a free shuttle that runs multiple times during the day to all the Disney parks. This was so handy!

My experience with Florida airports is that once you step off the plane, the decor is like stepping into an episode to Miami Vice. Maybe it's the graphic designer in me but I'm very aware of my decorated surroundings. It was a funny moment seeing all the geometric shapes and vibrant colours that lined the airport walls.

The airport had its share of Disney stores and memorabilia around as well. There was a Universal and Harry Potter store which I got quite excited about but quickly got out of because I didn't want to ruin our Harry Potter experience. Once mom found the wands I was like "uh, we have to go" and ran out of the store.

The cab ride to our hotel from the airport was about $50 dollars but it put us right near Disney. Once we checked in mom and I walked down the street to get something to eat at Katie O'Sheas. A beaten pub with interesting triangle-shaped fish. It was pretty good though and the girl was nice. Everyone in Orlando is really friendly, which is always great and makes for a nicer vacation. It was sooo sooo hot though on this day. I think it was 32 degrees Celsius. It wiped us out pretty quick. Our weather forecast for the week ahead was supposed to be rain so we were praying pretty heavy for good weather.

We went back to the hotel and checked out the weather network where we saw tornadoes everywhere all across the states. Erie PA had warnings. Nashville, Mississippi. California, who also had snow!!!! It was nuts. Our weather forecast was starting to look better though with sun the next day and more sun on the way. Only sun thoughts. We weren't going to dwell on the other stuff. Only sun, only sun, only sun. Tomorrow we'd be getting up bright and early for Disney. A whole day planned at Magic Kingdom. I couldn't wait!

Plane Spotting? No Problem! An Impromptu Trip and Travelodge Review

Today included an unplanned trip to Toronto. And a surprising stay in a rather sweet hotel! The trip to Toronto was on my radar but I didn't think I'd be going along. My sister is in Calgary and would be flying home today. Mom had suggested going to the airport with her the night before. She was going to work her travel agent magic and get us a free hotel to spend the night near the airport, and pick my sister up in the morning. Sounds fun!

I was at work on Friday when I literally found out at the last minute that we'd be going and needed to leave soon to try and miss the upcoming snowstorm. I was actually quite excited because it meant I'd get to use my new Samsonite overnight luggage! (It has spinner wheels so it's all fun to tow around.). I went home and threw everything into my suitcase as fast as I could and we were off.

Before I get to the hotel part, I have to say that when it comes to hotels I'm a Westin/Marriott kinda girl while mom is more of a Super 8 kinda girl (not that there's anything wrong with a Super 8, I've stayed there many times before) but I think you can see the difference. :). This time she got us a room at the Travelodge down on Dixon Road in Toronto. Pulling up I was surprised to see there was more than one level to this hotel. I was ribbing her

pretty bad on the way up. Walking in, the lobby was gorgeous. At least two story ceilings, fireplace, sitting area, a typical gift shop over to the side and a beautiful high end restaurant and bar attached to the hotel.

When we got up to the desk and were checking in, the desk clerk was rambling on about needing a key card for this, a key card for that, continental breakfast on your floor, use your key card for that, yadda yadda. We walked away going 'do you know what he said?'. We didn't know. We were on the 17th floor. Hmm, 17 floors eh? Okay this place is nice, I'll admit.

We step on the elevator and go to press floor 17 and realize: we're on the executive floor and the elevator has a key card entry slot that you need to use in order to access the 17th floor! Whoa mom, way to go! Our floor is literally on the roof of the hotel. When we get off the elevator there's about 10 rooms total. Our room is really nice. Not overly big but there's a 40" flat screen tv and a fantastic view of the Air Canada terminal runway! Our private lounge area where our breakfast will be is also huge and really nice. There's tables and a sitting area with a tv and free pop, water, coffee and tea. There's a living room area separate from the main area with a few desks and a computer station. Although the hotel already has open wi-fi which is great (love that - most high end hotels lock down their Internet to an Ethernet cord or password protected access which is the worst).

Mom and I flocked to the window and watched the planes landing for a while. We're huge plane spotters. Then we walked across the road to Lone Star for some delicious margaritas and chips and salsa. The night was relaxing and we had fun hanging out together. In the morning we went to check out our free breakfast which was really nice. It's continental but there was a good selection of pastries, cereals, breads, juice, yogurt, coffee and tea. The usual stuff. We did some more tail spotting because the view of the runway on this side of the hotel is stellar! My sister's flight is set to touch down at 12:45pm so after we chill for a bit we'll head over to the airport and check out some more planes while we wait for her and perhaps grab some lunch too.

Overall I'm super impressed with this hotel! The rates are pretty decent, just over $100+ a night. It's clean, modern, and has all needed amenities. The exercise room overlooks the indoor pool area which is a generous size. There's plenty of restaurants close by including Casey's which is attached to the hotel and something that's definitely on my list to try next time I'm there. The desk clerk mentioned that the other hotel across the road charges $6.00 dollars for the airport shuttle, but our hotel offers it for free. They also provide complimentary parking at the park and fly across the road if the hotel lot is full. I highly recommend this hotel for anyone flying out of Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Look them up if you're in town:

What a fun weekend! :)