When flying cross-country out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), it is best to book the first flight out. Yes, it means waking up pretty much in the middle of the night to get to the airport. But you’ll be happy when you arrive at your destination and it is still light outside. Be sure to check your departure airport’s website for the latest TSA information.
- Travel tip: Southwest Airlines counters open at 5 AM at LAX. There is no use getting there any earlier than that as you will have to wait in the walkways and there are not many benches or seats to sit on.
In Terminal 1, there are not many choices for breakfast this early in the morning. Starbucks will be your best bet. They have a counter right outside of the security checkpoint. They have a selection of breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, bakery items, coffees, water, juices, etc. Sausage, Egg, and Cheese sandwich, chocolate croissant, and a bottle of Fuji water were packed and ready for munching on the plane.
As the plane soared above El Segundo, the sun started to peek over the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a beautiful sunrise. Early morning flights also tend to be less crowded. Everyone had their own row of seats to either stretch out for a nap or spread out and work until the next stop in Nashville. First order of business was breakfast. The Sausage, Egg, and Cheese sandwich was still warm and served on an English muffin. It provided the protein-packed savory flavor to contrast the bubbly, sweet Seagram’s Ginger Ale. On the longer flights, Southwest also has a great selection of snacks of Nabisco Ritz Snack Mix, Lorna Doone Shortbread Cookie Crisps, and Ritz Cheese Cracker Sandwiches.
After a quick refueling and loading of passengers on in Nashville, it was a full flight to Orlando. The crew on this Southwest flight were a pleasure and kept the passengers chuckling with their humorous announcements. Orlando International Airport (MCO) is a very easy airport to maneuver through whether it is your destination or if you are connecting to another flight. Easy to read signs and monorail system will get you where you need to go in no time.
- Travel tip: If you are renting a car, rental car shuttle pick-ups are one-level down from baggage claim.
With just snacks on the plane, you might be a little hungry. Krystal might be what you’re craving. They are a fast food joint serving sliders galore. Bacon Cheese Krystal starts with 100% USDA beef, Smithfield bacon, American cheese, diced onion, mustard, and dill pickle atop their signature square bun. They are slider sized so you can easily order more than one if you are famished. Their French fries are okay. Rating: 4/5
Check-in time! Orlando has many hotels and timeshares to choose from. Parc Soleil by Hilton Grand Vacation Club should be on your list. It is situated away from the theme parks yet is close enough to be only a short drive away in the car. This timeshare is resort-like with main pool complex, children’s playground, on-site restaurant & bar, tennis & basketball courts, walking/jogging path, Parc Lake with fountains, charcoal grills, fitness center, marketplace (to pick up food & other essentials), and activity center. You can also plan on-site recreational activities (some are complimentary and others have a small fee) like arts & crafts, ping pong tournaments, trivia, bingo, ice cream socials, wine tastings, movies under the stars, beer tastings, video games challenges, dance classes, karoke, live music, and more.
As with many timeshares, there are different room sizes to choose from based on how many people are in your group. 1 Bedroom King Suite with Sofa Bed is spacious for a couple and even for a family of four. The kitchen is an open concept with full size refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, oven with range, washer/dryer (in closet) and dining room table. The living room is spacious with ample lighting, chairs, sofa bed, and plasma TV. A long balcony has an entrance from the living room with lounge and table with chairs – great for a sunrise breakfast or a romantic dinner with views of Epcot Center and Magic Kingdom in the distance. Fireworks from both parks are viewable from the balcony. The bedroom is separated by French doors from the living room. It has a comfortable king bed with ceiling fan, lounge chair, and plasma TV. The bathroom is also very spacious with glass enclosed shower, beautiful porcelain tub with a faucet that pours from the ceiling, and vanity for two. The only weird thing about the layout is the toilet. It is situated in its own room between the bathroom and the kitchen.
When staying at a timeshare for more than a couple of days, it is wise to find the nearest grocery store to pick up provisions like beverages, snacks, and food to prepare if staying in during meal times. Publix is a fantastic chain grocery store in Florida and carries everything that you might need to make your stay more comfortable. A competition at the World Food Championships called for a special trip for fresh vegetables, herbs, and ingredients for a filet mignon entrée. Chips, ice cream, and libations also found their way into the cart as well.
After a long flight in and grocery shopping, you might want to leave the cooking to someone else. Café Soleil is the on-site restaurant in the main pool complex. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
- Savings Tip: Upon check-in, you may receive coupons for complimentary drinks (draft beers, house wine, or non-alcoholic daiquiris or coladas) with entrée purchases. Don’t forget to use them.
Non-alcoholic Pina Coladas are a refreshing way to start your dinner experience. They are creamy and tropically sweet. A great beginning to your resort stay! Rating: 4.5/5
Tandoori Spiced Chicken served with white rice, curry dusted vegetables, and yogurt dill sauce. The chicken is flavorful and tender. The curry spiced vegetables pairs well with the chicken giving it savory, zingy, and herbaceous flavor. The presentation of the dish could be better, maybe swiping the dill sauce on the plate and placing the chicken on top or serving the dill sauce in a side ramekin for dipping. Saffron basmati rice would have been better than just white rice. Rating: 4/5
NY Strip Estilo Gaucho is served with garlic mashed potatoes and topped with grilled scallions and chimichurri sauce. The steak was grilled to a perfect rare. NY steak tends to be a bit chewier than most cuts of beef. Skirt steak would have been a better cut to use especially to pair with chimichurri sauce. The buttery marbling would balance perfectly with the acidic chimichurri. Instead of scallions, cebollin (Mexican green onions) would have been better with the bigger bulb at the end. The grill would caramelize it for a sweet and zingy flavor. Chimichurri would also be better in a ramekin for presentation and for dipping the bites of steak. The garlic mashed was pretty good, creamy and flavor, but could use just a bit more garlic. Rating: 4/5
Caramel Lava Chocolate Turtle Cake Á La Mode is a warm, rich dark chocolate cake oozing with a decadent caramel center, garnished with pecans, caramel, and topped with vanilla ice cream. Order this if you have a light dinner as it is very heavy but very decadent. The chocolate cake is dense like a rich brownie. The caramel and nuts add luscious and crunchy texture. As the ice cream melts, it turns into a makeshift crème anglais and counteracts the heaviness of the cake. Rating: 4.5/5
With tummies full, a restful night’s sleep ahead. At daybreak, the first day of Food Fight Write will be the start of the World Food Championships in Celebration, FL.