We all need a little weekend getaway every now and then. Staycations are nice but sometimes, you want to go to a place that's further than areas close to you. A change in scenery or pace is what your mind and body need sometimes.
A weekend getaway is exactly what I needed. Working as a social worker in foster care is very rewarding but tiring, stressful, and downright hard at times. Especially nowadays with high turnover rates and casework overload, the stress is real. I wanted a little breather, a tiny break, away from my job and the lovely state of Pennsylvania. I was looking for an excuse to get on a plane again and head to a place with warm weather.
Then a thought occurred to me...what better way to have a weekend getaway than to visit Florida! I LOVE Florida, I visit there at least once a year. It's warm and sunny almost all year round, I love visiting the theme parks, and I wanted to visit my best friend who moved down there a year ago. Location was set, I bought my roundtrip plane tickets for $98 through Spirit, and I put in my PTO request for a Friday off.
With my PTO approved and everything in place, I was ready for my weekend getaway!
Friday: Arrival in Florida
Friday the 29th of April was all about flying from Philly into Orlando. Everything went smoothly from start to finish. Once I arrived in Orlando, I made my way to the Enterprise car rental section to pick up my rental. I paid $145.59 for the weekend. With Enterprise, I was able to add my National Emerald car rental account information in there to get a discount, which comes with my American Express Platinum card.
Dinner with my Friend
After being stuck in traffic for about 2.5 hrs, I finally made it to my friend’s apartment. She wanted us to go to this little restaurant in her town called, The Bistro, because she wanted me to try a place you can’t get back up north.
The Bistro is a lovely little place that has a rustic but elegant feel to it. The menu isn’t big, only two pages. But based off what I saw, the items sounded very delicious!
For the appetizer, we shared the goat cheese and honey dip with fried pita chips. I’m telling you, between the crumbled goat cheese, honey, and seasoned pita chips, this appetizer was delicious! We both loved it and wished we had more. This appetizer was $$8.
The main course for both of us consisted of pizza. I decided to go with a classic cheese pizza for $9.50. It’s a personal pizza that has 6 slices and if you’re like me, that alone pretty much fills you up. My friend had a pizza as well, although I don’t exactly remember which one she ordered. It came with toppings but again, I don’t remember.
I saved the best for last, drinks! I ordered this margarita with jalapeño juice in it. It had a little kick to it but not an overwhelming amount. I honestly didn’t know what to think of this drink. It wasn’t my favorite but it wasn’t bad either, I guess it was somewhere in the middle. The drink cost $10.
For my part of the bill, splitting the appetizer in half plus my food/drink, the total was about $26 and some change. This is with taxes included. A lovely evening catching up with my best friend over dinner. My getaway was off to a great start!
Saturday: A Day at the Park
My friend and I decided to head to Universal Studios for a couple reasons. We both LOVE this park, we’re Harry Potter nerds, and we wanted to just have fun. We even brought our interactive wands with us so we could “cast spells” in Hogsmede and Diagon Alley. My friend brought her cloak along to be in full Harry Potter mode.
We had to Change Plans
Well, this idea didn’t pan out. The night before, while at dinner, we wanted to buy our tickets. Long story short: my friend has an annual pass and she can bring a friend along (me) and get the ticket for 15% off. Universal tickets aren’t cheap, so we decided to wait until the next day to pay at the gate to get the discount since we didn’t know how to do it over the app.
This didn’t happen. Why? While driving, my friend called the park to see how this discount thing would work. They said there was an event going on (we still don’t know what this event was) and no more tickets could be sold for the day. The park was at capacity and it wasn't even 10am at this point. The staff person said even an annual pass holder (like my friend) wasn’t guaranteed entrance into the park.
By now, I was kicking myself for not buying the ticket the night before while at dinner. At the time, it showed openings available for the next day (Saturday). So, I didn’t think much of it and decided to do the discount thing with my friend to try and get the price down a bit. I didn’t see any event advertised on the calendar or website, so I assumed we could get tickets at the park.
Moral of the story: buy those tickets in advance to avoid a situation like this.
Plan B: Commence
So, we couldn’t go to Universal. Fine. But we were driving to Orlando and had to figure out where we wanted to go. We both wanted to visit a theme park but didn’t know which one. Most of the other parks had events going on and the tickets were sold out. This was not looking good.
Finally, we decided to give Epcot a try. My friend checked and the park was open to new customers. Finally, we could get into a park! We got our tickets, I changed the GPS directions, and off to Epcot we went.
A Day at Epcot
When we entered Epcot, we were surprised to see that the International Flower and Garden Festival was happening. It was so fun to see Goofy, as a beautiful flower arrangement, greeting the guests. This was such a fun surprise for the both of us!
We took lots of pictures of the Disney characters in the different mini gardens we came across. I must say, they were beautifully created out of flowers. The flowers which were laid throughout the park were stunning to look at. I'm truly happy we were able to visit Epcot during the International Flower and Garden Festival!
Besides the lovely flowers and gardens, my friend and I had a splendid time in the park as well. We started off the day with the Spaceship Earth ride in the iconic Epcot symbol. Believe it or not, this was my friend's first time on the ride and she loved it! It's a classic ride you have to do when you're at Epcot.
Starting off with Mexico, and making our way over to Canada, we walked through and toured each country along the way. We went on a few rides here and there. Epcot isn't really known for their rides but they do have a few which you can check out. We rode the rides in Mexico, France, and a Finding Nemo ride which wasn't associated with a country. Specifically, we rode the Gran Fiesta Tour (Mexico) and Ratatouille (France) rides. Of course, we looked at the stores and attractions each country had to offer.
While in Germany, we both tried some "German" beer/alcohol. I had the seasonal beer which was kind of like a Blue Moon but without the citrus flavor, which was good. My friend had a mixed drink, which she said was ok, though I don't remember what was in it. In Italy, we both ate at a lovely Italian restaurant, ate delicious food, and chatted to this awesome Italian waiter. To finish off with Canada, we saw this Canadian singing group perform, which was awesome. I loved their performance!
But wait, there's more! After Epcot, we drove to Disney Springs because my friend wanted to visit as she's never been there before. So, that's exactly what we did. The cool thing about the parking garage at Disney Springs, is that you don't have to pay to go in or out. This saved me a bit of money as I was expecting to pay a ridiculous amount for parking.
It was in the evening when we arrived, which made Disney Springs a bit better in my opinion. Disney Springs is lovely during the day but in the evening, with all the lights, it's a whole other level of cool.
We walked around, looked in some shops, and tried to decide on a place to eat dinner. The thing is, Disney Springs is VERY expensive. Probably more expensive than the parks, honestly. After seeing some of the prices for entrees at certain restaurants, we made the collective decision to not eat there. However, we did enjoy walking around and seeing Disney Springs at night.
We even saw some fireworks as well! It was pretty cool to see them at night. By the end of the day, we were both tired and wanted to go home. At about 10pm, we left Disney Springs to head back to my friend's place. Next time, we'll visit during the day so we have more time and won't be so tired.
Sunday: Departure for Philly
All good things must come to an end and so did this weekend. Sunday was my day to leave and head back to Philly. My friend and I got breakfast together and then we parted ways. I drove my rental about 1.5 hours back to Orlando, returned it to Enterprise, and made my way through the airport.
Of course, things couldn't go according to the schedule either. While I waited for my flight to board, suddenly the gate number changed. The app didn't even update their system to show the new change, which was weird. This wouldn't have been so bad, because we thought the new gate was in the same terminal. However, it was not, it was in another terminal. If you've never been to Orlando's airport, there are different terminal gates and you have to take the shuttle train to get to them. Which, if it's crowded, can be a bit time consuming.
I did what I had to do and managed to get to the new gate. When I arrived there, no one was at the gate and the flight was delayed by about 2 hours. I eventually made it to Philly, though it took forever and I still had a 1.5 hour drive back to my apartment. Needless to say, I made it back with no harm.
Overall, I had a wonderful weekend with my best friend which was filled with surprises and unexpected events. I wouldn't change it for anything. Although it was a bit stressful and tiring at times, I still loved my little weekend getaway to Florida and I cannot wait to plan out my next getaway!