I have to admit, that in this family of 5, nobody likes Mardi Gras more than me. I would be at a parade every day if my family agreed. Now, we had already been to several parades when my hubby suggested we head out of town for a few days and skip the final weekend of it as well as Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras Day. In a hurry, I started seeking options for a quick getaway (booked it the day before we left but called earlier in the week). We have done the Disney thing many times over and decided to finally try out Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida (bonus – they do a Mardi Gras parade). Last time I went there, the only ride was ET!
Their main vacation number was very helpful and edumacated me on my options. Believe it or not, all the suites on the 3 on-property hotels were booked, and getting 2 rooms (family of 5 with 2 teens & a pre-teen is no fun in 1 room) was very expensive. The only bonus to staying on site, if we were to purchase the VIP passes (no discounts available) was to get in the park one hour early…and convenience. Knowing the teens are no fun to get up, their partner hotels seemed like a better fit for us.
We ended up staying just 1 mile away at Westgate Lakes Resorts and Spa. We got a very nice and clean 2 bedroom condo that was about 1200 square feet. It had a full kitchen, washer and drier and 3 TV’s (WiFi cost). They had several pools with one our balcony overlooked. The staff could not have been more accommodating – they were fabulous. The only silly thing they did not offer were coffee filters, but WalMart was just a hop, skip and jump away. They also had a complimentary shuttle to the park but the hours did not jive with our plans, so we opted to pay for parking (you pay just once a day).
Three days at the park seemed sufficient and was actually perfect. We bought the Express Pass Plus, which paid for itself several times over as we jumped to the front of the line on everything but the Rip Rode Rollercoaster & Harry Potter. It also allowed us to go back and forth between parks. Since there are only 2 parks there, we pretty much completed one on the first day, the other on the second and pinged back and forth the third day. We also did not feel rushed having that third day to repeat rides and shop.
Westgate Lakes: About $160 day with military discount of 10% plus tax and resort fee
Express Pass Plus: About $100 per day per person (no kid rates in our family).
Parking: $15 day or $20 for preferred parking which puts you on the park level (we opted for this on 2 days to hurry up and get there).
Food & Gas: A 10 hour drive for us from New Orleans. We ate in the park a couple of times, but mostly out of the park.
Lagniappe: We loved the Harry Potter ride and did single riders the second time, you get really soaked on the water rides – so be prepared, the Mardi Gras parade was very enjoyable, we loved all the shows with the exception of the Beetlejuice Review, 3 days was more than enough, parks are exhausting, driving in the car 10 hours was not bad with books, electronics and audiobooks, Olivanders was worth the wait for my kids as oldest got picked. Even though I make my living on-line, focusing heavily on social media, I never announced that I was away!