Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Can You Keep a Secret? We Are Going to Universal Orlando!

For the last four months my wife and I have been keeping a pretty big secret from my son.
Do you promise you won't tell? Shhhh....

For his eighth birthday we are going to Universal Orlando!  (And he doesn't know!  So don't tell him!)

We are going as part of Family Forward Conference.  It's run by two friends of ours, (the guys who own MomItForward)  and basically it's a conference for social media influencers where the family of the influencer is specifically invited and encouraged to come.

It's held at Universal Orlando every year, (this is the fourth year)  and features VIP tours of the parks, social media topics, time at the pool, a trip to see Blue Man Group, discount hotel, and bonding with other families just like ours, and more importantly lots of vacation time!

Here's what they say:
Join 70 digital families for 4 nights and 5 days of hands-on activities the whole family can enjoy, theme-park entertainment, and fun in the sun by the pool.
 ​Family Forward gives families experiences, ideas, and skills to embrace bonding in the digital age through workshops centered on topics like charity, communication, creativity, team building, and trust. Our premise is that whether you are unplugged or are plugged in, you can maximize opportunities to create connections with your family.


A big part of any conference is sponsors (believe me, I ran a conference, I know!)  So I want to give an extra big shout out to the Sponsors of Family Forward.
You can find out more about each of these sponsors on the Family Forward Sponsor page.

So I can hear you asking:  But how did you keep such a big secret from your son? And more importantly, why?  (Go ahead, ask.  I'll wait!)

The why is the harder question to answer, and so I'll answer that first.  As a professional clown, it should come as no surprise to you that I am a bit of a joker. My family has a tradition of surprises (my wife surprised me with a 50th birthday party 6 weeks late!  I surprised my brother on his 40th birthday by flying to Bogota Colombia.  (and he had surprised me by appearing at my doorstep 3 days before I was scheduled to depart.  Great minds think alike!)  And I have a series of April Fools Pranks on my son that have so far have been quite good.

It's fun to give stuff to people, especially when they aren't expecting it.

The how is easier to explain-- we snuck in a grain of truth.  We were already planning to go to DisneyWorld (as you probably know, we are rabid fans, recently became owners of a Disney Time share, and we've gone there a bunch of times.)
My wife is a guru about when the park will be empty, and according to historical data, the last week of August is one of the slowest weeks for the parks.

So we told him we were going to Disney for 5 days, and as a special treat, we organized with our friends in New York  the McGills (note: not their real name) for Aaron and his best New York friend to meet at Disney.  (You can read about some more of our adventures with the McGills here.)

We are actually taking all the kids to Disney, while the parent McGills have an adults only vacation, because the parent McGills can't stand amusement parks, and we want their kids to grow up relatively normal. (And because the Bear would love it!  We're basically renting siblings for him!)  We are spending 5 days at Disney with the McGill kids, and then my son thinks we are going to visit Grandma who also lives in Florida.  But in reality Grandma is coming to visit us!

Click the image (or this link) to get a Gryffindor robe of your own.

To prepare for this event, I did have to do some devilish preparation, including having my son read all of the Harry Potter books, see most of the Harry Potter Films (we have finished 6, we have both Deathly Hallows movies to watch, which hopefully will happen tomorrow or Friday (we leave on Saturday!))  And we have had to studiously avoid him noticing all of the preparations, including buying him Harry Potter robes, not letting him look at all the emails we've been getting from Family Forward, etc.  It's been hard, but it's been manageable

In the end it will all be worth it. My son gets the best birthday present ever, (two parks, hanging out with his friend, seeing his grandma) we get to hang out with the McGill's (who will spend a day on either end with us at a water park and a dinner before going off to have a lovely adults only vacation).

We are big fans of Disney, but have never been to Universal, so this is the perfect time.  My son is not much of a roller coaster kid, but he loves Harry Potter, he loves having fun, and he loves to swim.

Personally, I'm excited about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and all the rides (which are supposed to be awesome!) but I'm perhaps most excited about Blue Man Group-- amazingly, I've never seen their show live, and it seems like such a natural for me.  When I lived in NY (and now in Chicago) I have just never gotten around to it!

Here's a video/ad of Blue Man Group:

And they lived Happily Ever After.  (at least until the credit card bill comes in.)

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