Orlando, here we come!
This is a photo of the first time I visited Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida (I'm the girl on the right). I don't even remember what year it was because this is a scanned photo and I never got around to writing the date on the back of it! Judging from the culottes my cousins are wearing and the Laura Ashley dress I'm wearing (with running shoes?? wth??), I'd say this was in 1997. I visited again in 1999 (I can't even find a photo of that visit), and that was the last time I went.
Something amazing has happened: we are flying to Universal Studios Orlando and spending 5 days at the Mom It Forward Family Forward Retreat! Even more amazing, I won the whole trip!!
Mom It Forward, a blogging network run by the incredible Jyl Johnson Patee of Girls Night Out (#gno) Twitter party fame, was organizing a family-focused blogging conference at Universal Studios Orlando. The concept is pretty unique; usually bloggers attend conference sessions while the rest of the family goes off somewhere else, and they meet up afterwards. The Family Forward conference is different, because the whole family attends the conference sessions. To make things even more interesting, the conference is held right at Loews Pacific Resort (one of Universal's on-site properties) and inside the theme parks! The $700 conference registration includes not only the conference sessions but also 3 nights at the resort and theme park tickets for a family of five -- which is an incredible deal.
I really wanted to sign up, but I knew it was just a pipe dream. We'd still have to pay for plane tickets for the five of us, and we really needed to save the money for all the home improvements we needed to make (new beds for the boys, a new sofa, etc..). I told myself the kids would be in school anyway (even though I would have gladly let them miss a couple of days) and resigned myself to a summer without a "big" trip.
Then I found out that Southwest Airlines, Loews Royal Pacific Resort and Mom It Forward were sponsoring a contest to win a free vacation for 5 to the Family Forward Retreat! To enter, bloggers had to submit a vacation photo and a 250 word essay on family vacation-themed topics like travel activity ideas, ways to create family vacations traditions and how to pace yourselves while on vacation. What the heck? I decided to enter.
The topic I chose was How to Pace a Resort Vacation for Maximum Enjoyment for the Entire Family. I'm not going to share the essay or the photo with you here, but the photo I submitted was taken at on the same day as this one:
The photo I submitted was far better than this one. That's why even when I saw how many people were entering, even though I knew I wouldn't win, I couldn't help keeping a tiny spark of hope alive -- because I knew I had an amazing photo, and an essay that went perfectly with it.
Of course, even though I kept imagining how wonderful it would be to win, I never really thought I would win. So when the email arrived, I almost had a heart attack! My essay was one of five chosen, and all 5 families would be flown to Florida to attend the Family Forward conference!
Alfie and the kids have never been to a Universal Studios park before, or to Florida. We are going to have the time of our lives! Needless to say, we are all jumping with joy :)
The Pea even baked and decorated a Minion cake to celebrate! Stay tuned for lots of posts about our Orlando adventures...
Disclosure: I was not required to blog about the conference or any of its sponsors. I just wanted to share the great news! A million thanks to Mom It Forward, Southwest Airlines, Loews Royal Pacific and Universal Studios Orlando for the giveaway!