Tags

, , , ,

So what on earth could I blog about today?

Depending upon your willingness to endure the tweets/facebook stati of me or any of the family, you may or may not have heard some exciting news. I thought I should confirm and finally confess that despite everything I have been saying for the past few months, we ARE going to WDW this year.

Firstly, I have to apologise that I can only reveal this now, as we actually booked back in early March.  However there is a very good reason for this evil deception.  If you feel bad that I have kept this from you, just imagine how Emily felt!

Emily only discovered that we were going this year on Friday evening as this “surprise” trip was always intended as an 18th birthday present for her.  We were absolutely sure we would not be going this year…really….but earlier this year, as our thoughts turned to her upcoming 18th, we had been struggling to think of something to buy her to celebrate what we think of as one of two significant milestones, the other being a 21st birthday.

We talked about getting her an old banger, as she has recently passed her driving test, but to be honest we didn’t think she’d be too excited with that and wouldn’t use it as much as the investment in the insurance may merit. She’s glad she can drive, but not a driving fanatic if you know what I mean. Plus, we’d only just insured her on my car for the year, so that was a non starter really. We certainly couldn’t afford to insure her on two cars.

We thought about a theatre break in London.  She would love to see Les Miserables or Wicked, but some research into that saw the costs quickly tot up to something that wouldn’t be worth it (in our view) for just 48 hours in the capital.

Of course, we also looked at DLP, to tick the Disney box, but as ever, for just a few short days those costs mounted up too, and we really struggle to see value in just a few days in unpredictable weather….and of course it is in France with French people.

So with all those discounted, what to do?  After lots and lots of thought we asked ourselves a simple (loaded) question.

What one thing would she choose were she able to?

With that, there was only one possible answer, and so we bit the bullet and made the decision.

It always comes down to a comparison between the cost of something and the expected cost of going to WDW doesn’t it?  All the other options were clocking up prices large enough to be compared to a WDW holiday and so that then became a consideration.  Ultimately, I suppose we see better value for money despite the vast amounts involved.

This decision took enormous self-sacrifice of course as we’d have to go with her!! However, it did take lots of financial sacrifice as pretty much everything we wanted to do to the house has been put on indefinite hold.

To say that is has been difficult to keep this a secret for all these months would be a huge understatement, and the amount of times myself and Louise have almost let it slip is incalculable.  Also, sitting watching Emily physically pine for Disney on a daily basis has been painful, knowing that we are going but not being able to tell her.  It’s like having the antidote for an illness but not being allowed to administer it.

This was because we wanted to reveal her present on her birthday, obviously. We figured this would make the day memorable for her.

Since we booked in March Emily has spent much of her spare time watching a lot of You Tube videos on our telly all about Disney.  There have been so many times when Louise or I have almost said things like “Oh we can do that when go” etc etc. How we made it to her birthday I will never know.

We were doing so well, but we made the fatal mistake of increasing the risk by telling other family members. With just over a week to go to the big reveal, Louise’s Mum came round to let us know that we needed to be careful as there had been an unusual number of burglaries in the area, and that we should close all our windows when we go out, and when we go away make sure everything is secure!!

With Emily in the room, Louise desperately tried to express via facial expressions that she’d dropped a clanger whilst verbally telling her of course we would do that if we were to go away ever, but we had no plans! Luckily I was not there at the time as rugby tackling a pensioner and wrestling them to the ground may be frowned upon by the authorities.

We also had the issue of when to tell Rebecca. We had kept her out of the loop for as long as we could, knowing how hard we were finding it not to let it slip out, as we knew it would only increase the risk further. But in early July we had to allow her into the “circle of trust”.  This was because her boyfriend Tom was turning down offers of holidays from friends and family as he thought Rebecca was not going away this summer. So we told her, and after some initial upset and panic at the thought of Tom having missed out only now to find she would be away, all was well.

Tom did manage to arrange a holiday at more or less the same time that we would be away, and so love’s young dream was rescued.  Rebecca’s excitement levels have been at “high” since and to her credit she has kept the whole thing to herself.

It has also been very difficult for me planning wise, as normally half the fun of these holidays is all the research and arranging of stuff, but of course only if you can share that across large parts of the internet. It has felt strange to know that we are going but to keep up the facade that we were not at all times. You may have noticed whenever I was asked if we were going this year I’d say something like “I can’t report any trip this year” or “No, I can’t say we are going this year”.  So I didn’t really lie!!

The reveal itself was the subject of a fair bit of thought and planning, so I’ll cover that before I go into the details of the trip.  All along we’d had an idea of putting together some sort of video montage of her growing up, culminating in the reveal of her present.  This seemed more fitting than just handing her a card with a message in or just telling her.

So after going out for a celebratory meal on Friday…..

Emily and her Nana

Emily and her Nana

First legal drink

First legal drink

Emily and her Grandma

Emily and her Grandma

We came back to our house for the present giving, drinks and cake. Emily had specifically requested one of Louise’s cheesecakes and not some shop bought birthday cake!

Emily and 18 candles

Emily and 18 candles

We had earlier in the day given her a Pandora bracelet as her “present” and bless her she was thrilled.  After she’d unwrapped everyone else’s presents once back from the meal we then told her we had something else to show her and settled down to watch this…it lasts a good few minutes and please make sure your speakers are on!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
This slideshow created with Smilebox

So that you can get an idea of Emily’s reaction, I had Rebecca video her watching it. Don’t worry this is just a video of the last vital few seconds not her watching the whole thing!

The tears went on for quite some time, and not just from Emily.

It is almost impossible to put into words Emily’s level of love for WDW, and her passion and obsession seems to have grown knowing (or thinking) that we would not be going back this year. That video of her reaction is the very definition of joy.

So what does the plan look like?

Here we go with the booking back story.

With a green light to get stuff booked, but a severe lack of actual funds to do so, of course flights were the starting point, immediately followed by abject horror at the state of prices. You’d think with both girls out of school now we’d be picking up flights for ten bob as we are not strictly tied to term times.  Alas no, Louise has taken up that mantle and her holiday dates from Uni have all the flexibility of sheet of polystyrene.

I can’t wait till Louise qualifies! We shall be going in the depths of February with flights for £7.35.

To cut a very long story short, at the time of searching (and there was a lot of searching) I found some flights for around £550, indirect, which was astonishingly good compared to the norm of £800+. The only catch was that we couldn’t get the exact dates we wanted/needed, as flying on the exact dates to get back for Louise’s new term meant the prices went silly. So these more reasonable flights came back on the right day but meant we’d have to fly out a day later than we wanted, so we would only be able to do thirteen days. However as this was a saving of around £1000 for the four of us it was just a no brainer.  Literally going on the 17th rather than the 18th would have increased the flight costs by about a quarter.

Having watched my Kayak alerts email report ever more silly prices on a daily basis since booking, I do feel quite good about what we paid.

So we fly out via Chicago on the 18th of August and back on the 31st (my birthday) via JFK with American Airlines, booked through Orbitz.

Accommodation was fairly straight forward, as our (lack of) budget and the desire not to spend two weeks all in one room pointed us towards a villa for most of our stay.

When the girls were much smaller, all of us being in one room was very do-able. Now, with us being effectively four adults, and with three of them having a “getting ready” cycle measured in hours it just isn’t practical for any length of time, simply because we need more than one bathroom. With one bathroom between us, my sulking at not being at a theme park before lunch may ruin the whole holiday.

Add to that the sheer amount of electrical devices, lotions potions and powders involved, there physically wouldn’t be room for all of us in one room, and I’m not leaving any of my skin and hair care products at home for anyone.

I did fancy a few nights on site though, and we’d be happy to do one room for a night or two.  Having rented some DVC points from a friendly (and very discrete) Dibber (Thank You Debbie), we tried to secure somewhere to stay. We did want Vero but there was just no suitable availability, and so we worked through what were quite limited options for WDW properties as we were fairly late to the party booking wise.

We were delighted to secure three nights at Old Key West to start the holiday. We’ve never stayed there before but heard lovely things about it from our DVC friends Steve and Di who have that as their home resort, having bought into DVC in about 1938 when it was the only resort available.  Crucially I believe the rooms there to be slightly bigger than the more recent DVC resorts, and they actually have two real beds rather than one and a sofa bed.  Again, a sofa bed for the girls at 16 and 18 is just a non starter.

Villa wise, we have gone for location first as ever, and secured a lovely looking place on Lindfields for ten nights. We have stayed on Lindfields several times before, and along with Sunset Lakes is probably the best location in our opinion for our needs.

Some months later, as often happens, a less than inspiring day at work led to my mind wandering to the holiday, and the plan, and the addition of a night away at the beach. We have previously loved an impromptu stay at the Hilton at Daytona, and with a little bit of internet and a smattering of Quidco I found a room for the very reasonable sum of less than £70! Another no brainer, and that means two lovely days at the beach.

Park tickets were a simple affair, and this was just a matter of finding the cheapest 14 day ultimate on offer and that was done and dusted.  Quidco again…Kha-ching!

Car hire too was straight forward. US Rent a Car is my usual port of call, and again it proved to be very reasonable, and allows you to secure a car with just a deposit.

A meet was arranged with Jakki and her family as usual (thank you too for the secrecy!), and we’ll be meeting up for a meal at Roaring Forks and a watch of Wishes from the spectacular and impressive bar at the top of Bay Lake Tower. It does indeed pay to have friends in high places. This will be on our first day and their last. Spare yourself any feelings of pity for them as they will have been on holiday for around seven months by then!

Dining wise, you may know that in recent trips our on site ADRs have been few and far between. We don’t do the Dining Plan, (we simply couldn’t eat that much food you know!) and we love so many off site eateries that we’d feel like we were missing out. However, there was one place we had to try to get into, and it wouldn’t be easy. Be Our Guest had become an obsession of Emily’s since the opening of the new Fantasy Land, and believe me we’ve watched every video of it on You Tube.

A small amount of research told me that getting a reservation would be harder than having a sensible debate on the Dibb without the usual clowns getting the thread closed. The date upon which we could book ADRs had long since passed, and so, one lunchtime I was messing about on the WDW web site and app, looking up stuff and I wandered into the dining reservation bit.

With little to lose other than time and my job, I tried a few date and time combinations for Be Our Guest all to no avail.  However, one last try brought success, and I quickly completed the booking hardly able to believe my luck. Maybe it was meant to be?

Our only other ADR is at the Mexico place in Epcot on our last night.  We’ll be there so I can cry uncontrollably at Reflections of Earth, so I’ve got us in at around 6.45 to save us having to drive off site to find food.

Our other eating plans involve the usual suspects, and these old faithfuls are just such a part of our trips that we cannot bear to miss them -

Olive Garden – The Lasagne is probably Emily’s favourite meal on the planet.

Applebees – I would wrestle anyone who comes between me and my Ultimate Trio.

Bahama Breeze – We have never had less than a superb experience here.

Romanos Macaroni Grill – A hidden gem.

Outback – A first night tradition.

We may stumble into Beaches and Cream at some point too for another fight with the Kitchen Sink. The current score is Williams family 1 Kitchen Sink 0.

So we now have, or at least can finally display, our shortest ever countdown to a trip. In just three short weeks we will be on our way. All this secrecy has meant that mentally I haven’t quite come to grips with the fact that we are indeed going again, but I’ll be working hard to do so very quickly now.

Will I be doing a trip report? I would think yes. This is your pre-trip report by the way!  I’m not sure where to put it yet, but there will be a collection of knob gags and turtle heads somewhere on the internet…probably the usual places.

So again, apologies for the blatant lies, but hopefully you can understand why and be forgiving.  Let the countdown commence!

Till the next time….