Operation Oli

It’s difficult to be blogging in my usual inane and whimsical way about my usual subject of Florida after what happened this week. I cannot imagine the grief, terror and heart-break that an event like this inflicts on those involved.

I could rant for hours about the lunacy of the US gun laws and the orange appendage that’s running the show, and his “God fearing”, truck driving, yeehaw mates who think that assault weapons have any place in the hands of a member of the public…but I won’t. I have however spent the latter part of this week getting angry at strangers on the internet.

So in my own little world, this week has been a busy one. There was a Mustard rehearsal on Monday night, and then a medical drama on Tuesday night.  I arrived home to find Louise in the bathroom with her fingers down Oli’s throat. He had got part of a chew stuck down there and he was having a real problem breathing. So we threw him into the back of the car and set off for the nearest vets. It wasn’t our vets but that didn’t matter.  The fact that it was closed did.

So we called our vets to find them closed too and then headed for the out of hours emergency vets their answer machine message directed us too. Oli was in a bad way and they had to immediately put him under to get it out. A fraught forty minutes or so and a hefty claim on our pet insurance later and he was OK. They suggested he stayed in overnight for monitoring, so we went home as the adrenaline faded from our bodies.

About 11pm, I saw the vets number pop up on my mobile, and in a panic I answered. He was fine, but a bit stressed and as they felt he was now out of the woods they asked if I wanted to take him home. So off I went, to find the entire motorway network in Manchester closed, resulting in a forty-five minute journey each way when it should have been twenty. I collapsed into bed after midnight hoping that day would never be repeated.

He’s been fine since, with his only visible scar the ridiculous band of missing fur around his leg where they shaved him to give him the anaesthetic.

Aside from that drama, the week was fairly normal with too much work in the middle and it ended with a couple of days down at Head Office in Marlow. Louise finished her latest ridiculous working marathon and had Thursday and Friday off after working ten days straight. We’ve had a rare weekend where Louise isn’t working and I’m not gigging. We spent a rare Saturday night watching The Hitman’s Body guard with Ryan Reynolds. It was nice of him to pop round.

During the week there was also a moment of panicked realisation that our ability to book ADRs is right around the corner. For someone who has been as often as I have, sometimes my knowledge/memory of how stuff works is appalling. The 180 day window for ADRs consistently surprises me and as of the first week of March we’ll be trying to secure what we want. It’s at that point that plans probably will have to change. If we can’t get what we want, when we want, or an opportunity pops up to get something we didn’t think we would, flexibility will need to be the order of the day. The plan isn’t laminated yet for that very reason.

Having previously said all confident like, that we aren’t doing many ADRs and it won’t matter that much, a quick glance at the current plan shows the first three days of the trip all involve on-site dining. Bugger.

Whispering Canyon, Beaches & Cream and Via Napoli are the eateries in question and there will be some concentrated app usage trying to bag those. Remember when we used to phone up for this stuff? Happy times. I’m sure we all miss the experience of talking to an actual American Cast Member and being wished a magical day after booking a table or two.

The other big news last week was the opening date for Toy Story Land being announced as June 30th.

Having just missed Pandora’s opening (not a euphemism) last year it’s nice to know that it will be open when we get there and hopefully some of the post opening madness may have died down. What that does do is put us into a FastPass tail spin. Usually our FP choices for DHS are pretty simple. Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror and Rock n Rollercoaster, closely followed by Little Mermaid or she gets upset!

With new rides in play, it’s a whole new ball game. Good problems to have. Hopefully, having more stuff available will spread the crowds a little more…wishful thinking maybe. It’s as if I’ve learnt nothing since 1980.

Till the next time……


Going Commando

For all you WDW veterans, you will know that in the time leading up to each trip it is all about certain milestones. Well, we passed one yesterday with our countdown slipping almost unnoticed below 200 days. There are far more significant milestones further down the line as we get to the stage where we can book ADRs (dining reservations…Louise always tell me off for not explaining all this acronym nonsense for those who read this and aren’t WDW saddos) and then sort FastPasses.

At some point we’ll need to sort our ESTAs. I think everyone still has one from our last trip, so it’ll just be for Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and Mikey, but before that we have to get Freddie a passport. Lots to do. As I always say, this isn’t, to quote a fellow Boltonian, a booked it, packed it, f***ked off type of holiday. You need to work at it, and generally you reap what you sow.

What I’m trying to sow for this trip is a magical first time for pretty much everyone. Of course, for Mikey and Tom it really is their first visit and we need to be mindful of that and give them the time and space to take in what we may take for granted and sprint by. Freddie too is a first timer but he won’t remember this one. No matter, we will and it is everyone’s first time in taking a grandchild, nephew, son etc and that is bound to make this a very different experience.

Alongside that desire to have the first timers see and do everything (impossible I know) I also need to make sure we accommodate the fact that a baby slows us down, Rebecca takes about three weeks to get ready and Louise enjoys a sunbathe, hence the large amount of rest and late starts you saw in my plan. So the main thing I will need to do is to turn off my theme park commando demon which rages through my body once I get within a few miles of a theme park. Right there, much more than the issue of dealing with a toddler on a long haul flight, is the biggest challenge that lies before me. I need to take up yoga and meditation between now and the end of August.

No matter what I do, put me at rope drop and I smell blood. Competitive Dad emerges and I am knee capping ten year olds and shoulder barging octogenarians to get to that first ride ahead of the masses. That also typically means that the rest of our party arrive fifteen minutes later with Louise giving me a look that tells me I’ve done it again. I’m not too proud of that behaviour but sometimes needs must. I remember one morning arriving at Animal Kingdom (pre Everest) and being on the “get on the safari” mission. The girls were in strollers and we were motoring. As we rounded a corner one of the girls screamed in delight as Lilo and Stitch were out meeting guests and with it being early, there was no queue.

“Look Daddy, it’s Lilo & Stitch!” yelled an excited daughter. I couldn’t tell you which one as I was in the zone.

Suffice to say, as I draw a veil over what happened next, no meet and greet happened that morning and ten minutes later we were sat on one of the first safaris out of the traps, seeing  many animals that would be sheltering from the heat a few moments later. Sure, the girls were cradling their crushed dreams the whole way round as they didn’t get to meet those characters but in later life they came to appreciate my wisdom….I think.

Don’t worry, I redeemed myself later.

It’s all about balance I think. There’s a time to smell the roses and a time to get your head down and get somewhere. For clarity, the time for the former is NOT at park opening when you can get several rides under your belt before half of Orlando are out of bed, and the time for the latter is when you’ve done a few things, energy levels might be dropping and you need a breather.

Hmm, ridding myself of this theme park commando demon doesn’t seem to be off to a good start does it?

Till the next time…..

 

My Way

I quite often get asked to give advice to folks considering a Florida trip. I’m sure this is the case for many of us that have been a few times. I do my best, but often find that a lot of what I offer is pretty much ignored. It’s fine…no honestly…IT’S FINE!!

Everyone is different, and even when you get to some level of expertise, everyone does it differently. Everyone else is wrong of course, but you knew that anyway. So that could well be the reason that my wise words are not followed to the letter. Either that, or it could be that those asking for advice are expecting a couple of sentences about how to book cheap flights, the best places to stay and the best time to go, but what they get is an indexed, fully formatted word document with a word count just a little lower than the Brit’s Guide To Orlando.

I like to be thorough, and there are angles that I cannot leave uncovered. That risks them doing Orlando wrong and I can’t be having that.

By the nature of the request most of these folks are first timers and at the risk of sounding really patronising over what in reality is “just a holiday” they have no concept of what they are asking. The sheer scale, complexity and endless nuances of a trip to WDW and beyond is (in my opinion) incomprehensible to people who haven’t been. There are a couple of chapters in my word document about acronyms, so they know to get a FP for BTMR before  heading to Epcot for ROE.

The frame of reference for first timers is typically Alton Towers and when you drop the bombshell that WDW is the size of Greater Manchester you get a knowing smile and a look that tells you they think you are bullshitting.

It’s not their fault they haven’t been before, of course, and you often see questions on these Facebook groups like “Is Disney Springs easily walkable from (insert location)?”

The answer to that is of course that nowhere is walkable from anywhere. It’s a tough ask to walk to the car park of most things, never mind to a whole other location.

We’ve taken a few newbies in recent years and we have some more coming along this time. We’ve tried our best to explain what things are like and what to expect before we go. We’ve spent evenings sharing what we think are relevant vlogs and stuff, but in themselves, with no context, I guess it is hard to grasp what is going on.

So I think I spotted a gap in the vlogger market (Hey Guys!). This may well exist already, but the three minutes of extensive searching I had the patience for has surprisingly failed to find what I’m looking for. What is needed is some sort of beginner’s guide. An overview of the whole thing, outlining the scale etc, then a dive into each park and attraction and then maybe further down the line, some more advanced level stuff about the Magic Band, My Disney app, etc etc etc. This may be a whole series of vlogs due to the amount of stuff to cover. It could be a dream topic for a UK based vlogger as it doesn’t necessarily need them to be in WDW, but it does need a good knowledge of stuff.

So this is where I know get bombarded with such content with messages suggesting my searching skills are slightly worse than my patience levels with YouTube.

So come on, who has done a “So you’re thinking of going to Disney for the first time” vlog? If not you, have you seen one you thought did the trick? If not, why not make one purely for my benefit so I can share it with folks who ask me what it’s all about!

I know there are lots of vlogs based on lists such as the top ten things to do etc etc, the top ten things not to miss and all that. But I’m looking for a explainer video, which starts with a map view of the whole place, a little history, a bit of background on the climate through the year, a bit of on site vs offsite debate…you know, a short concise video that condenses decades of experience and expense into a digestible form.  Can’t be too much to ask surely?

I wait your links and disdain for my lack of patience and poor searching skills.

Till the next time…..

Baldy Bean

Bean is bald. It isn’t something in the water in the Mkingdon household, which is a good thing for Louise and the girls. She has been dispatched for her first ever hair cut yesterday and returned looking like a different dog.

Here’s the before shot….

and the after….

She can be a little highly strung at times so we did warn the groomer beforehand. When Louise picked her up he couldn’t speak more highly of her. Apparently she just stood there wagging her tail at him for the whole experience. We’re clearly doing something wrong.

So after that landmark yesterday afternoon, last night Rebecca reported another to us. At just three months old, Freddie rolled over for the first time last night. Based on the rate at which he is growing, eating and developing I think he might be walking next week. By the time we go to WDW in late August he may be tall enough to ride Big Thunder Mountain.

Speaking of which, had I mentioned we are going to Florida on holiday? I may have. I have mentioned a bit of plan tinkering recently so it is time for a re-share of the current version of the plan. This may and will change still I think, mainly if we can’t the ADRs we want when we want them, but here is the current state of play.

29th August

Travel Day. A ridiculous wake up time to get to the airport far too early. Expensive breakfast, expensive duty free buying, nine hours in a metal tube with a ten month old, a long line at immigration, a big shop at the supermarket and dinner at Outback. That lovely feeling of returning home and the joyous prospect of two weeks stretching out before us.

30th August

Up in the early hours, Magic Kingdom of course. Freddie’s first view of the castle. Lunch at around 10am, some rides, a parade and then dinner at Whispering Canyon.

31st August

My birthday! Some rest in the morning as the second day hits us hard as usual. Mid afternoon eats at Beaches & Cream and then an evening around World Showcase with ROE to end my birthday as should be the law.

1st September

Some more rest in the morning as we will have been out till 10ish the night before and bodies will still be adjusting. Epcot again for a few Fastpasses and hopefully an ADR at Via Napoli.

2nd September

A proper official rest day. It’s Labor Day so parks are to be avoided. Pool, reading, relaxing….for about three hours in the morning then we are off to Citywalk for lunch at Toothsome. A wander around Citywalk and maybe some shopping at a mall to build up an appetite for dinner at Applebees.

3rd September

Enough rest now. A full on day at DHS, including an ADR at The Brown Derby.

4th September

A rest day of sorts, with brunch at Keke’s. We’ll find something to do in the afternoon, or go back to the pool trying to get ourselves hungry for our visit to Cowfish that evening.

5th September

Another full theme park day at DAK. Lunch at S’atuli Canteen and our usual dinner at Yak & Yeti. Depending on energy levels we will either stay for Rivers of Light or head for home and Jellyrolls may be an option for those without young children! If we don’t do it this night we’ll do it another for sure.

6th September

Resting again with maybe a wander around Celebration in the afternoon/early evening. An early dinner at Olive Garden and then the plan is MNSSHP.

7th September

Epcot today. More Fastpasses and doing as many rides as possible before a quick shower and change at the villa before heading off to Teak for some Doughnut Burger goodness.

8th September

Typhoon Lagoon today until the usual late afternoon storm sends us back to the villa. Dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.

9th September

Back to DHS today, mopping up stuff we’ve missed and repeating the good stuff. Disney Springs in the evening and a possible dinner at Edison.

10th September

A lazy morning, and a brunch at Hash House a Go Go. Shopping probably at a mall or back to Disney Springs. Should our bodies be able to take it, Bahama Breeze for dinner.

11th September

Last full day and of course that means Magic Kingdom, ending with parades, fireworks and tears.

12th September

Travel day. I will inevitably have to buy a suitcase. Brunch at Toojays before some last minute shopping/browsing before heading to the airport contemplating the horror of the return to normality and work.

13th September

I begin work on the next trip, convincing Louise it is the right thing to do.

Now, there’s a lot of rest in there, which is intentional. With Freddie in mind I need to recognise that the theme park commando approach may not be an option, and getting ready and out in the morning may be more challenging, if that is possible, having had Louise and two girls in tow all these years. If we feel like doing a bit more on some of those days we can, but best to plan sensibly I think.

This compromised approach does not apply to eating. That is still the usual he who dares wins tactic and we’ll be cheating death if we eat everywhere we plan to. Somewhere in that lot we want to try a “snack” at Voodoo Doughnuts too.

It still feels like there is work to do on the plan if I am honest but that’s OK. I’m pretty good at it and there’s time yet. It’s all part of the magic!

Till the next time…..


Discount Disney Tickets

Freddie, Food and Fevers

2018 rumbles on in its glorious miserableness, evidenced last week with Louise being ill. Not just a bit unwell, bit properly rotten. I think it was that horrible chest infection/flu that seems to be spreading around the country. She of course could not work. Most people run the risk of making their colleagues ill. Louise of course runs the risk of infecting dozens of already poorly and vulnerable patients too.

To add further pain to her week, she coughed so hard at one point that she put her back out and had to call the doctor from the living room floor unable to move. Fun and games.  A few days of complete rest later and she is starting to feel human again and the best news is that so far I have managed to avoid contamination. Or maybe I haven’t, and I do actually have this infection but as my pain and illness tolerance is that much higher I just haven’t noticed?

With Louise being so ill, our house has been a no go zone for young Freddie all week which wasn’t great. We’ve had to keep up to date with his daily transformations via the media of socials, until he was brought round last night. We’d missed him and in just a week he seems to have doubled in size and started driving.

Here he is chilling at the grandparent’s pad.

So we spent last night listening to him chatter, making him laugh and the grown ups watched a YouTube video where someone tasted all thirteen freak shakes at Toothsome. What? That’s a normal Saturday night isn’t it? We need this research so we can have our milk shake choice made by the time we get there, to save us spending an hour staring at the menu. For the record, I think I’m going for the peanut butter based one…but, that may change before we get there.

We also spent a large amount of time on the new Voodoo Doughnut at City Walk’s menu trying to decide which we would have. I don’t think anyone will have the brass neck to order this one out loud…

Rebecca and Emily were a little delicate as they had a night out on Friday. They were reliving the fringe years with a Paramore concert. They dined at Infamous Diner beforehand partaking in lovely looking burgers and, judging by their snapchats, too many cocktails. This probably explained the then endless stream of snapchats which just showed them jumping up and down and screaming lyrics out to EMO songs. Good times.

That reminds me, My God what a food filled week this has been, as on Thursday Emily and I went on our team night out. It was meant to be our xmas meal, but for several reasons got pushed back. We went for a huge Chinese and Emily created another hangover due to downing double Disaronno and Cokes at an alarming rate. The amount of food was both tremendous and tremendously worrying for our future health. If there’s a better dish that doesn’t involve Dougnuhts and burgers than crispy duck then I’d like to hear about it.

With work continuing to be hectic, no wonder I’m tired.

With Louise edging towards normal health levels and no nights out planned for next week, apart from a Mustard rehearsal on Tuesday, some recovery may be possible in the week to come.

I have stuff to do now so must leave you. Apologies for the brevity, but quality over quantity is better. Achieving neither as I have done requires some special skills indeed.

Till the next time….

Shutter Shock

Turns out it isn’t August yet. That’s disappointing to be honest. Having booked flights last week, I think I have waited long enough now and we should be on our way.

From the comments on last week’s post it would appear I have booked us onto “Dibber’s row” on our flight. Having not used the Dibb forums for a good few years I have to say I’m not too sure what that’s all about but I’m guessing it means you have to have a three-hour debate with the person behind you about whether you can recline your seat or not.

You see, it’s comments like that which will lead to the admin of It’s Orlando Time banning me from my own blog.

Rather than jetting off to Florida the past week has been spent at work, and it has been an unusually shite one. There’s little point in going into why here as it won’t make any sense and nobody cares as you all have your own work based woes going on, but just know, it’s been pants.

To top off that week nicely, I got back from a Mustard gig at about 1am on Saturday morning and our less than one year old roller shutter through which we drive the cars to park them up at the back of the house broke. So I sat there, with a car full of gear, tired and hungry looking at the thing sitting there half way up or down. There’s no way to look at that as you would with half a glass of something in a positive way. It was just broken as was my spirit. I wrestled with it for a bit, no doubt waking the neighbours until admitting defeat and carrying my gear in the long way through the gate.

So we had one car trapped outside (mine) and one inside (Louise’s). I had to wake Louise up to tell her that before she went to work in the morning she would have to transfer all her nursing gear into my car and take that. She was delighted.

The man who can fix this was contacted. He needs some parts to fix it which he won’t have until Monday so we are a one car family until then. Luckily I have had nowhere I needed to be whilst Louise has been out working all weekend. I did manage to get the thing to go all the way down, the speed at which it did wasn’t a good sign to be honest, but at least we’re secure at the back of the house until he fettles it.

If ever there was a symbol of my working week that was it.

Having worked most of Saturday too, overseeing some changes being made over the weekend, this incessant moaning you are currently reading through is absolutely justified and you’ll just have to suck it up.

We’ve gone a whole week without changing the plan or adding any further eateries. Emily and I have had a brief discussion about sacrificing the 50’s Prime Time Cafe as we are also doing Whispering Canyon, which is, in our opinion the better of those types of dining experiences.

Credit: Disney Tourist Blog

It may be replaced by one of the new things which seem to be opening at Disney Springs on a daily basis, we’ll see.

Right, as all I’m doing is moaning, it is time to draw this car crash of a post to an end and tend to my bottom lip.

Till the next time….

Pretty Fly For A Tight Guy

What better way to start my 2018 blogging than with news of Florida related vast expense?

I have kept an eye on flights for a month or so now, with no real intention to buy unless the price seemed too good to be true and unlikely to fall further. I did see my arse at times as both Thomas Cook and Virgin seemed to be heading significantly north of £600 as notified by my Kayak alerts, but I held my nerve and told myself all would be well.

So with Louise out during the day on New Year’s Eve I found myself at a loose end. In the afternoon, I fired up the laptop and Emily and I demolished a selection box whilst going over our day by day plan with a fine tooth comb. We had a quick look at the busy day guides and realised that our trip could be summarised as, every park will be busy the first week as it is Labor (sic) day and quieter after that so we gave up trying to reconstruct the plan based on that and went with our gut instincts.

With Freddie in tow, I do realise that all planning will be subject to change, and going with flows will be the order of the trip so I’m not too worried about which park will be on which day. He may only be ten months old at the time, but he will be (quite rightly) dictating our movements.

What I do care about is where we are eating so we spent a good amount of time re-jigging some of those plans and that is now pretty much as planned as it can be until we can book the few ADRs we need. Having said that, new restaurants keep opening which lure us into changes. The Edison being the latest one to tempt us to change the plan.

Anywho, later that day it came to mind that I should perhaps have a quick look at flight prices. I did a Skyscanner/Kayak thing and noted a price with Virgin of just over £500. Now, either Branson was drunk or my laptop had been set to show prices in some weird currency. I tried to go to the Virgin Atlantic site and do a test run of a booking to see how they would double that price before I got to check out, but for some reason their website won’t let you book online if you have an infant in your party.

So I looked at the third-party options listed on Skyscanner. I discounted a few I’d never heard of as their reviews were as good as Trump’s approval rating, but decided to give Netflights a go, as I’d heard of them and indeed even booked with them previously.

They do let you book online with an infant in the party and the price held true. So, on the basis that any price around the £500 mark for direct flights in August (granted, late August this time) was unlikely to be bettered, I shot my bolt.

I did realise that I had not reserved any seats and that would be extra. Once I got the eticket details through from Netflights I went to the Virgin site to see which fellow passengers I would be inflicting a ten month old on for nine hours. As much as I tried to pay them money for knowing where we’ll be sitting, the web site was having none of it. I kept getting one of those ever so helpful error messages that web sites give so often.

“Something went wrong. You can try again or whatever.” was how it went I think. So I gave up. I was glad in a way as by sleeping on it my subconscious Florida brain kicked in and brought to mind “the bubble”. Now we hardly ever fly Virgin. I think we have done so just once in all these years which goes to show –

a) How tight I am

b) How they are pretty much always more expensive than other options

but I have heard and seen lots of talk of the bubble. With a bit of research and watching a couple of vlogs about it (Hi Guys!) it seemed this would suit us well. If we’re going to do economy (and we are, I’m not made of money), then being in that less populated, quieter space would mean we will be inflicting all that screaming on fewer people. I don’t mean Freddie by the way. Louise tends to get a bit vocal when scared. She’s not a good flyer.

So despite it being New Years day by this time, some poor soul was working in the Virgin call centre and I had to actually ring up and speak to someone. This is no way to conduct business in 2018!

Hilary (I think it was) was very helpful and explained that the system did seem to be glitchy, so much so that she could see two payments had been taken from me already from my attempts the previous day online and the seats were allocated.

A good dose of hold music later it was all sorted, a refund for the second payment was processed and I could now see our seats reserved online. For anyone flying on VS75 on the 29th of August, come say hello.

The plan was for Rebecca, Tom and Emily to be on row 80. Three pairs of hands will be needed for those really big smelly nappies! Louise of course has to have the window seat so that we don’t crash, so we will be in row 79 with one of us off our tits on red wine and Diazepam.

A couple of days after booking, our party grew and that spare seat in row 79 was filled. A new character will be introduced to the Mkingdon cast for 2018.

To cut a long story short, a friend of Emily, who is a boy (but not her boyfriend) was added to the party. He also works with Louise and recently attended an Anne Summers party with Louise, Emily and Rebecca! If he can survive that then he should be fine. He’s never been to WDW before and to be frank has no clue about what to expect or that the holiday will be shared in an overly detailed trip report to at least three readers.

Say hello to Mikey everyone. He knows not what he has let himself in for.

There’s no getting away from the fact that a nine-hour flight with an infant is going to be hard work, but if Freddie continues to behave as he has in his first couple of months then it shouldn’t be too bad.

So, by the time I’d paid for our seats it was around £570 each (apart from Freddie who was a very reasonable £9 pre taxes), which is a price I’m happy with and one I don’t think will go down between now and August. At least we now know we’re sorted, have seats in the more peaceful bubble and can really start to plan.

If anyone does spot the same flights for less between now and and August you can keep that information to yourself!

Till the next time….