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Fifteen months had passed since I cancelled my last family vacation because of the pandemic.
I decided that it was now time to make plans for another family adventure, especially after having received the vaccine.
I was able to get coverage at work for a week off in July and decided I would do a road trip with my daughter down to Orlando so that we could spend some time at Universal Studios as well as spending a day at Disney.
I know what you are thinking:
Are you nuts?!?!?!?
Going to Disney/Universal Studios in the middle of July sounds like one of the circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno.
It seemed like I was recreating the hilarious Disney skit by Jim Gaffigan in real life (the similarities were quite incredible):
I recently wrote how trips become more memorable when things do not go according to plan.
Well it looks like my streak of “memorable vacations” continued as this particular vacation also had an unexpected twist (which happened to also showcase both my daughter and I’s ability to think outside of the box on the fly).
Like I had done several years ago the plan was to drive my Tesla down to Orlando (utilizing free supercharging along the way).
On this particular visit, because my daughter really wanted to go to the beach, we were going to do a pit stop on the way there at a close friend of the family’s house in Tallahassee.
I have known this family essentially all my life (our fathers were both internal medicine residents in New York together).
It just so happened that my friend had a beach condo about 2 hours from his home in Miramar Beach, near Destin Florida.
The condo was part of a complex that gave you access to a gorgeous private beach.
Although the condo itself was already booked as a vacation rental during our visit, as an owner my friend still had access to all the facilities and the beach.
My daughter was in heaven and I have to admit I was having a ton of fun as well.
Unfortunately this is when my vacation took an unexpected turn.
We had been tossing around a Nerf football between my friend, his daughter, my daughter, and myself.
I was facing the shore, ready to launch a pass to my daughter when an apparent large rogue wave hit me from behind and I was completely submerged (I had been standing in water up to my stomach).
I didn’t think too much of it and was getting prepared to toss the ball to my daughter.
My daughter then sent a wave of panic through my entire body when she said, “Hey Dad. Where’s your glasses?”
Sure enough the eyeglasses that I had just purchased not more than 4 months ago were no longer on.
I put on some goggles and made a frantic search along the seabed around me.
I knew it was like finding a needle in a haystack given the conditions and especially since my eyeglasses were from Silhouette and frameless.
After 20 minutes or so I had to give up, knowing it was futile to continue.
I wasn’t too bothered by the expense of replacing my eyeglasses (because I had just gotten the more expensive progressive lenses this year, my total replacement cost was around $740) as much as I was bothered by what it could possibly mean for the remainder of the vacation which had barely even started before this mishap.
The biggest issue was that this was the only pair of corrective eyeglasses I had with me on this road trip.
It was Sunday evening when this happened and I was supposed to drive to the Loews’s Portofino hotel in Orlando that night (about a 4 hour drive).
The upcoming week was booked solid.
I had a 2 day pass for Universal Studios and the Islands of Adventure booked for Monday and Tuesday.
This was followed by a stay at a Disney resort Tuesday night and park hopper admission for Wednesday (we wanted to see the Star Wars attractions at Disney Hollywood and the Avatar ride at the Animal Kingdom).
Not only was the drive going to be a lot more challenging (without corrective lenses I could still drive but road signs would be blurry and I would likely be squinting a lot) but I also thought that some of the attractions I was so looking forward to would be ruined as I would not be able to see the details clearly (i.e. the Avatar and Star Wars rides).
Out of the box thinking #1.
I originally thought perhaps magnifying everything would help the situation out.
I therefore felt that perhaps buying some over the counter reading glasses might do the trick, or at least provide some improvement.
So my daughter and I made it to the local Walmart and tried on some reading glasses.
Not only did the reading glasses not help but it made my distance vision even worse (which in retrospect should have been obvious, but I was desperate and not in my right state of mind at the time).
Crestfallen, I felt I was doomed to complete the rest of my vacation visually impaired.
My daughter, who has previously proven to be an out of the box thinker like her dad, told me she had some extra contact lenses she brought along for the trip and perhaps I should try a pair and see if this would help.
I thought might as well give it a try and took 2 contacts from her.
Unbelievably there was a drastic improvement.
My far version almost approached the level I got wearing my normal glasses with just minimal aberrations noted.
I was ecstatic and gave her a hug and told her that she had just saved the rest of my vacation.
I was also far more confident in my ability to make the next leg of the road trip now.
Out of the box thinking #2.
We started our journey towards Orlando and I soon learned that although my far vision was near spot on, my near vision was quite distorted.
I could barely make out details on the large Tesla center touchscreen.
I often had to ask my daughter how far it was to the next exit and estimated battery level at our next supercharger pit stop.
It was at that next supercharger stop, located at a large travel center, that I thought perhaps I should revisit my original idea of trying on some reading glasses but this time on top of me wearing my daughter’s contacts.
I went to the counter and tried on various reading glasses of varying strengths and serendipitously I found one (+1.75) that not only made a tremendous improvement in my near vision (which now allowed me to read fine print slightly less than an arm’s length away) but also magically made my far vision almost perfect.
The only downside from this hybrid combination of eye correction was that I now looked quite comical, becoming a doppelganger for Mr. Magoo.
My predicament was not lost on my daughter who busted out laughing and delighted in taking multiple photos while I was trying them on.
As the old saying goes, “beggars can’t be choosers” and I resigned myself to look cartoonish for the rest of my vacation.
I did shy away from being included in many of the vacation photos that were taken but other than that there was no real deviation in my vacation experience.
The remainder of the trip went without incidence:
Islands Of Adventure/Universal Studios.
Because we stayed at one of the 3 “Premier Level” Universal Hotels, my daughter and I both received complimentary Unlimited Express Passes.
Of course there is a premium charge for these hotels, my one night came to $674 after taxes (plus an additional $30 for 1 night parking (which I took full advantage of as they have complimentary Tesla charging stations available).
I figured my daughter and I came out ahead because that 1 night stay allowed us a free express pass for both the day of arrival and the day of departure (I had to buy a 2 day park admission ticket separately).
These express passes are extremely valuable as they allow you to take the much faster line to ride the attractions (similar to the setup I enjoyed in Dollywood).
There is variable pricing when purchasing these passes a la carte but expect to pay around $110-150 each depending on the day and number of visitors.
Essentially the 4 express passes total we received (2 for each day) covered the majority of the room cost (I believe when we were there it was at the $150 price level).
One ride that we absolutely loved was one that was not there our last visit, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster.
It ranks as one of the best, if not the best, roller coaster I have ever been on.
Unfortunately, as this was a newer attraction, the Express Pass was not accepted.
Even so my daughter and I managed to experience the ride two times during our park visit.
Another difficult attraction to get on was Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
This attraction not only not acknowledge the express pass but also required you to have a reservation before they allowed you to enter and stand in line.
Getting this virtual reservation proved to be most difficult as repeated check-ins on the Universal App kept saying there was no availability and to keep trying.
Early evening I finally was able to score a reservation for my daughter and I.
The express pass did allow us to hit old favorites like the Hulk, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, the Minion ride, etc multiple times.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios/Animal Kingdom (using Park Hopper).
My daughter and I really visited these two Disney Parks just to see all the Star Wars attractions and re-experience the Avatar ride from our last visit.
We were fortunate to get on every ride we wanted to including getting admission to the highly coveted Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run attraction which gave two opportunities to qualify for a reservation, at 8 am and at 1 pm.
Despite trying my best to get a reservation on my phone as soon as the clock hit 8 am I was unable to.
That left one final opportunity at 1 pm and this time I was lucky to score reservations for my daughter and I.
For those planning on getting on this ride, the 8 am release of reservations is much harder to get as you do not have to be in the actually park to get it.
In order to get a reservation during the 1 pm offering you had to be inside the actual park (Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
Because you could not enter the park using a Park Hopper until after 2pm it meant that you needed to go to Hollywood Studios first (which we did).
It truly was a remarkable attraction and my daughter and I were thrilled we were lucky enough to ride it on our one day there.
The Wrap Up.
The vacation was much needed after the year and half I had just gone through.
Even with the hiccup of losing my only prescription glasses I still had a blast (the worst vacation day is still >>>>> than the best day of work).
And, like Jim Gaffigan in the video above, despite all the walking I did over 3 days (over 9 miles/day) I still managed to gain 6 lbs.
I think it was because of my love of Butter Beer from the world of Harry Potter that was the main culprit (I believe I partook of it at least 2 or 3 times each day).
When I arrived home I was curious of how my makeshift vision correction compared to my actual prescription:
- My daughters contact prescription strength was -5.0.
- The reading glass strength was +1.75.
- This combination resulted in a -3.25 strength.
- My prescription turned out to be -2.75.
So I was -0.5 from my prescription strength which, all things taken into consideration, was an adequate compromise.
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