With a new trip booked, we are all, to varying degrees, (me more than most I admit) thinking about another journey to our favourite state, Florida. Even the girls, who can be ambivalent to the (what seems to be an) annual event, have been chatting about it, and last Sunday night, Rebecca asked if we could watch “the Florida DVD”. This happens to be from our 2001 trip, which shamefully is the only one I have actually spent the time on to “cut it” into as working DVD, with music and everything.
So, not needing much encouragement to wallow in some magic we put it on.
Wow! Back in 2001 the girls were 6 and 4, and of course looked very different. There was a distinct lack of eye liner for a start!! I have to admit to feeling a little emotional about the whole thing, and of course Louise and I made the usual comments about time whizzing by, and understanding why Grandparents take such delight in their Grandkids, having missed their own kids growing up in a blur of careers, housework and day-to-day nonsense.
The DVD itself contained scenes from The Garden Grill, Fantasmic, and two lovely scenes, one from Beaches and Cream, where Rebecca’s face is a picture of wonderment contemplating the milk shake in front of her that is bigger than her head, and lastly, a scene in our All Stars Music hotel room, where the girls re-enact the parade, in their Cinderella and Belle dresses. I’m sure I’ve told you about this stuff before??
Emily had the Princess wave down to perfection, and was for those brief moments a Princess. You could see in her face that she absolutely believed it, and was beyond happiness.
Now in the context of just having booked yet another trip, and worrying ever so slightly about the creative ways in which we shall be affording such an extravagance, within the space of a few seconds of each other, both Louise and I said exactly the same thing, in slightly different words.
“Worth every penny!”
To be fair, I think Louise was referencing the ridiculous cost of the dresses we had bought them (and did every year until they got too big). For me, it was bigger than that. With every passing year, that DVD becomes more powerful. By the time they leave home, turn 21, or get married, I shall be a weeping uncontrollable mess before anyone presses Play!
Even uber cool Emily, at 15, updated her status on the bible of teens, Facebook saying that “Disney made her happy!” It does. I don’t know why. The whole brand wraps you in cotton wool, whispers in your ear that everything will be OK, and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. This state is how they get you to hand over such huge sums of money with a smile on your face.
I think that no other brand on the planet has this impact on its customers. Universal, in many ways very similar in terms of product, comes nowhere near the experience. Don’t get me wrong, Universal do lots of things very well, but it is just different.
As a brand, Disney get into the physce of their customers in a way that blows the mind. Add to that a product of such quality that no-one can compete, and it is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped. At a top-level, they do a few things very well –
- Exceptional customer service as a given
- Cater for all ages equally
- Ensure things are always clean and neat
However that is moving towards far too clinical an analysis. If you start digging too deep into the theory of Disney, then you run the risk of unmasking the ugly corporate beast that lies beneath. From the very beginnings of the company, Walt was renowned as ruthless and incredibly focussed on success, and even today, the power of Disney is legendary. You only have to witness any sort of minor fall or accident in a park to see the “machine” in operation. Out of nowhere, multiple Cast Members appear, with audio ear pieces and walkie talkies, surrounding the “victim”, and whisking them away from the public gaze as quickly as possible.
This of course is no doubt the first stage in an operation to remove any risk of the member of the public suing Disney, but should the worst happen (from Disney’s point of view), then the aggression and quality of their legal power is again something of legend.
Remember, nobody dies on Disney property!!
I am open to the suggestion that my kids (and me) have been brainwashed in the past twelve (or 30 in my case) or so years, and that they are not a good stick by which to measure this, but I don’t think this totally explains the whole thing.
What this experience has reminded me is that –
a) The money on these trips is an investment to be repaid in later years.
b) I really must get my arse in gear and “do” the other half-dozen lots of video into a DVD.
What I fear is that I shall become an over emotional, weeping wreck whilst doing so. God help me if and when we ever have Grandkids. I will indeed be leading the charge up Main Street to Splash Mountain with young Gerard and Hayley (I’m guessing the girls will name their kids after their current musical heroes), with Louise raising her eyebrows and giving me her knowing look which tells me I am going all Chevy Chase again.
Well, bring it on. As long as the girls don’t bank on me leaving them any cash once I’ve gone to the big castle in the sky then all is well.
All of this may seem like an odd outburst for someone who is claiming that they won’t be stepping foot into a Disney park this year. Well, maybe, but I am confident we won’t. In fact to prove my resolve, it is probably timely to share our plans for our upcoming jaunt.
We fly out on the 28th of July at 8.30am. That’s an early flight at the best of times, but as we flying from Heathrow, it would be a little testing to make it from Bolton. So on the 27th we’ll load up the Mondeo and head on south to the luxurious Travelodge Heathrow Central. At an extravagant £27 for the four of us, I can safely say this will be the cheapest night of our plans.
I have booked parking at the Long Stay thing at T3, and handily that is where we fly from. A few hours later we touch down in Toronto, and after a couple of hours, we complete the journey down to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at around 5.30pm local time. One of the quandaries I have been wrestling with recently has been what to do upon arrival. I did not know whether we should hunker down in Fort Lauderdale for the night and then drive down south(er) the next morning, or to bite the bullet and endure a matchsticked eyelid drive down to Key Largo.
I have gone for the latter, embracing a “He who dares wins” attitude, and hoping for the usual adrenaline filled euphoria fuelling my body for the drive.
At Key Largo, we are booked into the Hilton. This was primarily driven by our lovely experience at Daytona last year, some good reviews on Trip Advisor, and the fact that it was on the beach. This is crucial for us throughout this trip, as the four of us have different tastes between pool and beach and it is lovely to have both next to each other so each can do their own thing. We have three nights there, and during that time we will drive down through the Keys to explore what is has to offer.
This takes us through to the 31st of July, and we then make the journey cross-country to Naples. Again through a mixture of google, trip advisor and inordinate amounts of time on the internet, I have plumped for Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club. This again is right on the beach front, and hopefully is as nice as it looks. With five nights there, it had better be. During that time we are off to a baseball game on one evening. We are this time supporting the Fort Myers Miracles. Again, the value is incredible, at $8.50 each! Other than that we have loose plans to perhaps visit the zoo, but mainly, we will relax!
After these two new experiences we then head off to more familiar territory, with the next two nights at Vero Beach. Although we are not DVC members this place truly feels like coming home. Hopefully if the waves are performing I shall be showing off my world-renowned boogie boarding skills. You have been warned.
Then finally, we head “home” again, with our last five nights in Orlando. We have a villa booked now, at Lake Davenport, courtesy of course of yet another kind Dibber. Shamefully my planning for those last few days is centred mainly around our favourite eateries, and we should just have time to squeeze in –
- Bahama Breeze
- Olive Garden
We have also made arrangements to meet up with Jakki, Steve, Aodhan and Niamh, as is becoming a tradition now (probably much to their regret). As nice as it is to see them, this year, the fact that we can watch Wishes from BLT with them adds to the occasion!!
So as you can see we have no theme parks planned, and certainly nothing Disney on the cards (OK, OK, Wishes is sort of Disney but we’re cadging it for free courtesy of Jakki and Steve!!). We MIGHT go for Universal if funds allow nearer the time, as it would require a night at the Hard Rock, as we just couldn’t do it without FOTL I’m afraid. We’ve been spoilt.
So there you go, if your internet has been a bit slow over the last few weeks, that would have been me using it all up, reading and researching these new things and areas we are visiting, and I have a bit more to do. However, it is nice to have the basics in place now.
For anyone not able to go this year, I can can only apolgise for the planning orgy!!!
Till the next time…..