As promised, here is Day One of this year’s trip report. I’m now intending to write the rest of it, and get it all out in the form of an eBook as quickly as possible. I reserve the right to change Day One between now and then as I’ll probably spot some mistakes in it!
I’ve been asked if I will post it on the Dibb as well, and the answer is maybe. I say maybe only because posting this thing in one format is time consuming enough, so to do it here, the Dibb and in an eBook is a mighty task. I don’t see much point in posting just one day there right now, with a huge gap until the rest is ready, so I’ll wait until it is complete and try to put the whole thing up in one go.
I am very open to feedback on where and how you’d prefer to read this thing (if at all!). Hopefully between the Dibb and eBook you can consume it in the manner that suits you best.
Enough caveats….here we go…..
Craig aka mkingdon – On the cusp of 43, mental age of 3. Waist measurement slightly higher than that.
Louise – As ever, on the cusp of a greater age than me, student nurse, qualified mother, bad flyer, keen amateur red wine drinker.
Emily – Recently 18, the reason for this trip, Disney freak, One Direction obsessed and a beautiful creature.
Rebecca – 16 going on 26, boyfriend obsessed, with a makeup habit that would bankrupt a Sheik. Another beautiful creature.
Ryan – A rucksack whose growing fame is a constant source of confusion and mild resentment.
This holiday was officially not happening for most of the preceding year. We had of course booked it, and had things planned, but we had kept all of this a secret, as it was to be a surprise present for Emily’s 18th birthday at the end of July.
The determination, caution and downright luck in keeping things a secret were incalculable, but somehow we managed to do the big reveal to her on the evening of her birthday in front of all the family. There were tears and joy in equal measure. Emily blubbed a bit too.
If you want to see how that went, and an enormous amount of back story you can read it here.
The title of this year’s trip report is inspired by Louise and I being aged cripples. Louise has a long standing ankle problem which causes her grief on a regular basis. Indeed on our last trip she spent the last day being pushed around the Magic Kingdom in a wheelchair.
As I career at a frightening pace towards old age, my body too seems to hate me, and with about a week to go to this trip my right knee decided to play up. So the title is a reference to old age, but not the in the way you may think! The limp to which I refer are the ones carried by Louise and I through the trip. Not that you will hear me moan about it at any time.
Day One – Sunday 18th August
There are many inescapable truths about undertaking a holiday to Orlando, and two of them I shall document now. The first is that no matter how far in advance you book, plan and prepare, you will always wish you’d spent more time doing so as you realise you have forgotten to do something or you have made a mistake.
The second is that the days leading up to your holiday will be some of the busiest of the year. Perhaps that is just me? Louise has a compulsion to rebuild our house before we leave, and will undertake cleaning tasks previously unheard of in our normal routine, that now become essential before the immovable deadline of our departure.
So, what planning disaster befell me? The day before our departure I had logged on to the American Airlines website in an excited mood, ready to do the online check in thing. I filled out all the required information, clicked the button and was greeted with a nasty red error message. I do not have the best track record with online check in to be honest and can’t remember too many (any) occasions when I have done it with any measure of success.
My failure this time was linked to my activity months ago, when I had entered our API information (Advanced Passenger Information) into the American Airlines site. I had made an error with one of the passport expiry dates (Louise’s) and when I entered the correct one during check in, the site spotted the conflict and immediately suspected I was plotting some terrorist activity.
SWAT teams dropped from helicopters outside of our house, my bank accounts were immediately frozen, and my own passport burst into flames in front of me. I actually didn’t mind the frozen bank accounts thing as it might stop Louise from spending any more money in Boots.
Despite some desperate pressing of buttons over and over, the result did not change. Louise offered some opinion on this but I shall not sully this report with it.
Deflated, I resigned myself to having to check in with the muggles at the actual airport in the morning.
The rest of the day was a whirlwind of chores and tasks that I would rather not be doing, and we retired to bed staring at a 4am alarm call, which for once I didn’t mind at all.
It felt like not a lot of sleep happened before that alarm went off, and as Louise did whatever women folk do in the bathroom, Oli, our Old English Sheep dog jumped, well no, he stepped on to the bed, and lay on me for half an hour. I considered this his punishment for his impending trip to the kennels.
With three females to contend with, I was informed when my seventeen seconds of bathroom time had arrived and I used it wisely. Once I was dressed I continued with more chores and tasks that I didn’t want to do.
Putting the rubbish out, hoovering, and then hovering in bedrooms telling women folk that they needed to stop using their straighteners now as I had to cool the bloody things down and get them into a case this side of Christmas. By the time I had wrestled said cases into our not very spacious car, I had a nice sweat on. Nobody wants to be moist at 5am.
Of course, no matter how late we were, nothing stops me herding the girls into position for the traditional photo.
As would be the case for pretty much all of the holiday we were about half an hour behind (my) schedule. This meant the goodbye to Oli lasted about six seconds (He’s a dog, get in the car!) and we were at last on our way to Manchester airport.
With the car pretty much full to capacity, the journey was a gentle one, not wishing to snap an axle and we arrived at 6.30. I of course drove to the wrong car park, and had to carry out several illegal manoeuvres and some illegal language to get us back on track.
Once we were at the right place, it was a very smooth process. Terminal 3 Meet and Greet is to be recommended and commended. Basically it works like the hire car places at Orlando airport where you drive into a lane, grab your cases from the boot, drop your keys and head for the terminal. They give you a receipt that you won’t be able to find in two weeks’ time.
Terminal 3 is just a short walk across the road, and at this stage I was unable to contain myself and I arrived much sooner than Louise. This I believe is a medical condition and happens to everyone from time to time, and isn’t a big deal. Once we were reunited we took the lift up to Departures. I found the correct check in desk smoothly without any incompetence or the need to ask a disparaging American Airlines rep where check in was whilst I was stood right in front of it. The lost half hour caused by hair doing and woman faff had cost us our place at the front of the queue, and we were now disappointingly nestled in with other people.
After a security check and passport check in which we confirm that we are handling nothing incendiary aside from the contents of my underwear, we were then pointed at a self-serve kiosk and told to get on with it. Luckily, with me being a technical genius we flew through this without incident or help, and in no way needed some patronising member of staff to come over and ask why we were taking so long.
After dropping the cases off and breezing through security without the need for any cavity invasions, we were now free to tick the most important of pre-flight boxes, and that is food. Now they have these full body scanners, I leave several members of security in a state of admiration, awe and envy as they all review my scan for several minutes. “He certainly was packing heat” was what I thought they said as I walked away.
Being Terminal 3 virgins we wandered wide eyed, agog at the vast array of eating options. After looking at the one restaurant and the couple of shops we plumped for the former.
Louise has to release a chocolate hostage before anything else happened, so the girls and I grabbed a table and I took the brave step of ordering for Louise.
I tried to take some photos, but it was a bit early.
We had –
Me and Louise – Eggs Benedict
Not the best we’ve ever had, and made very difficult to eat by the frankly crap knife.
Emily and Rebecca – (Blurred) Berry Yoghurt Thing
Orange Juice all round, and coffee for the grownups.
Once food was ingested, everyone felt up to a photo.
The bill was £33, which was some £20 or so less than I was expecting for airport dining.
Whilst waiting for our food to arrive, we were chatting. Well to be exact, the girls were on their phones and occasionally giggling to themselves. Rebecca re-entered the real world for a second to share a photo with us of Beyonce’s new haircut.
Louise looked at the photo, and said. “I preferred her with a big bush”.
My views on Beyonce’s bush were unrecorded in my notes.
The Duty Free shop, which is pretty much anything but free, drew Louise in like Jimmy Saville to a school disco. There was lots of spraying, and thankfully no paying to be done.
We then called at Boots for “some essentials”. I stayed outside to be honest as it would have just resulted in a row. We have more Boots stock in our possession than they had in this shop, but still purchases were made.
WH Smiths took yet more of my meagre wealth, including the purchase of a colouring book for Rebecca. Yes, she is sixteen, and yes the book was six quid. I need my head examined.
Costa was next. The girls had one of those frozen crapachino things, and I think the adults had warm proper coffee. We found some seats to wait in, and then waited. Rebecca coloured in, Emily stared at her phone and I captured both.
Rebecca got her very lovely grown up top covered in very childish green felt tip pen. We are convinced that even on her wedding day she will get some sauce down the front of her dress.
When we were checking in (do you remember that far back?), we had been told that our flight to Chicago was delayed by an hour. I was already mentally preparing my multi-million dollar compensation claim when I spotted the departure boards now showing that it would depart on time. They were messing with my melon man!
We drank our coffees and Louise took some of her (legal) medication to help her get through the flight. I’m not saying it sends her a bit loopy or anything, but a few minutes later she did come out with the phrase, “Have I got coffee on my eyebrows?”
The more worrying part of that is that she did indeed have coffee on her eyebrows. Remember kids, the drugs don’t work.
At around 9.50 we wandered down to gate 55, and fortunately this was also where we would be flying from. The “on time” departure of 10.40 already looked unlikely to me as the staff were messing about paging folks for chats at the desk, and mostly not getting anyone on board the plane.
Boarding started around 10.40, which was when we were supposed to be setting off. They started boarding in groups with the first to board being those who were members of American Airline’s clubs, which included about seventeen different variations based on precious stones. There were calls for Sapphire Club Members, Diamond Club Members, Gold Club Members and I’m sure there was a Topaz Club in there somewhere. I boarded when Brassic Club members were called.
The sheer number of folks in these priority boarding clubs outnumbered the clubless scum which seems to me to devalue them somewhat. Luckily, despite our delayed boarding, there were still seats left for us. That was a relief.
We actually took off at about 11.40, which was the time they said we were delayed until at check in. Having only a two hour connection window in Chicago, I now knew that things would be tighter than a tight thing with us now being an hour behind. I therefore spent the next eight hours or so worrying about that.
Louise was now on the wrong end of 10mg of Diazepam, and for all she knew we could have been on a coach trip to Blackpool.
I’ll pay for including that!
She added a few red wines to that during the flight, so it was like flying with a cross between Oliver Reed and Pete Docherty.
We stared at quite a lot of this….
Until the food arrived.
It tasted better than it looked, and the carrot balls made Rebecca laugh for longer than it really should.
At this point the first film was about half way through. It was the Steve Carrell one about the magician. As we were seat back TV-less pretty much nobody actually noticed it starting and having missed half of it I certainly didn’t try to catch up.
The second film was disappointing to be honest. It was the Avenger’s Assemble one that’s been out for ages, so I thought that was quite poor to show that to be honest. In a desperate attempt to eat some time I watched about an hour of it.
In between heads passing the screen, and the reflective glare from the windows blocking the view, I gave up on Scarlett Johannsen and I then read for a bit.
Somehow Louise got her hands on the camera, with inevitable results.
It is often hard to convey the litany and boredom of a Trans-Atlantic flight, as you end up skipping about six hours of tedium by just saying that eventually we arrived.
So please stare at this for seven hours before proceeding.
After more food, which was a delightful bit of pizza, of which I may have had more than one piece, hoovering up those bits not required by offspring, eventually, we started to descend. As ever that took about four times as long as was estimated and hoped for. I have to say that I would not willingly connect in Chicago again. I had completely ignored the fact that Chicago is actually quite a long way from the east coast of the US, and added a considerable amount of flying time. New York or Philadelphia are preferable, and my all-time favourite connection destination is Atlanta.
As we were plummeting to the ground in a controlled manner one of the cabin staff made an announcement. Nobody heard her, so she tried again over the tannoy system and that worked a little better.
I heard the first bit, which told me that I really needed to listen to the rest of it. She started with something like, “For those making connections to the following flights, (she included Orlando), as your connection times are tight, there will be staff on hand to assist you make your connection….”
At this point Louise “drink and drugs” Williams turned to me and asked me what the hostess had said and what we had to. I tried to listen to the announcement and respond at the same time, failing at both. Louise took this to mean I was ignoring her, and took the right hump with me. I caught about half of the information I needed from the announcement and took the right hump too.
Obviously this in no way led to a falling out at this stage of the holiday. Louise of course quickly realised that she had been completely in the wrong, apologised and we moved on.
We landed at 1.50, with our onward flight to Orlando leaving at 2.50. This was going to be close. As we walked down the ramp from the plane we could hear a voice shouting “Orlando!” I am often mistaken for Mr Bloom, so I ignored this as best I could as I had no time for these crazy females throwing themselves at me.
Shortly, we found an airport person stood with a group of folks, and she too was shouting “Orlando”. I approached; she confirmed my last name and gave me a very important looking Express Connection folder which I was to have in my hands at all times.
Once she had collected all thirty two folks making the Orlando connection she had us all marching through the airport. She did allow a restroom stop, and I broke the world record for tutting as I watched those weak of mind and bladder take those vital minutes to do the do.
Onwards again, and we were marched to a VIP line at immigration, and almost immediately processed to the absolute disgust of the hordes of folks in the queue. I wafted my special orange envelope around a bit, and smiled at them smugly. This didn’t last long as the immigration officer processing us looked at our flight time to Orlando, shook her head and said good luck!
Next, on to the baggage reclaim. All the cases for Orlando were already out and lined up next to the carousel with our airport escort encouraging each passenger on to greater speed like some sort of relay coach at the Olympics.
We barely stopped, and headed for the customs check where they seem to frown upon you carrying six dozen burgers and a bag of sheep shit. Looking at the impressive orange coloured thing I had in my hand he waved us through.
We were then abandoned a little at the monorail to the correct terminal, and with barely minutes to spare, there was an element of panic at this stage. This wasn’t helped when the first monorail we boarded promptly broke down and we had to quickly transfer to another. Once off, we were stuck behind some folks who were inexplicably in no rush whatsoever, despite the fact that we knew them to be on our flight to Orlando. They stood still on every escalator and walkway rather than walking.
They were exposed to my most vicious stare.
Now it was security, and they gave not one toss what colour the thing in my hand was. We still had to more or less strip down to our undies and pass everything we were carrying through the X-Ray. At the other side of security our “assistant” appeared again, and pointed us towards our gate, which as she remarked with some irony, was the furthest one away.
We power walked, jogged and sprinted towards it, knowing that the scheduled departure time had already passed. As I got close to the gate I kicked on, to make sure they couldn’t close it. I’d wrestle folks if I had to.
I threw some boarding cards and other random pieces of paper at the chap on the desk, who found the right ones and handed me back some sweet wrappers and receipts. Louise and the girls caught up shortly afterwards and we knew we’d made it. As we sat down, one more family boarded after us and with that the door closed and we pushed back, basking in the loving stares of all the passengers we had just delayed. You’re welcome!
The whole Chicago airport experience was just an absolute blur, and an experience I do not want to repeat. For anyone doing this connection, you need at least two hours. We were rushed and prioritised through every stage and it still took us over an hour.
We left just fifteen minutes later than scheduled.
We were seated in two lots of two a few rows apart, and we could see Rebecca chatting away to an old bloke on the end of their row. No doubt he had a shared interest in make-up, fit boys and Beyonce’s bush.
For the next two hours we then looked at this and sighed in relief.
It was a little bumpy, and the pilot said he was having to fly around some weather in the Orlando area so we came in the scenic route via the coast. As ever it seemed to take an age to actually get down onto the ground, but we were off quickly, and immediately found a restroom for Emily as she had needed one about sixty miles out of Manchester.
Onwards now to the monorail to baggage reclaim, and after only a few minutes we had what we needed and took the elevator (not lift) to the car hire desks. After all this travelling, queuing and being processed, this was the longest queue of the entire journey. There were only two people in front of me and one being served, but there appeared to be only agent at the Thrifty desks, and for some reason, everyone apart from me seems to require an hour to sign a few forms and collect some car keys.
I shifted from foot to foot a few hundred times and sighed quite loudly as my form of protest. Finally a second member of staff showed up, and after an eternity I was being “served”. I’ve done the car hire thing a good few times now, and have encountered varying degrees of skulduggery to extract extra dollars, but this chap was at a whole new level.
He tapped at his keyboard and furrowed his brow. He said “You’ve only ordered an Economy???????” in a tone of voice that suggested I may have murdered some small animals.
“Yes, that’ll be fine for us” I said, quite patiently, considering I’d been awake for about twenty hours.
He then went on to tell me that this would be smaller than a Fiesta, and we would struggle to fit in. I told him, as calmly as I could that I had transported my family and luggage to the airport in a Peugeot 107, which would most likely fit in the trunk (I speaka da lingo) of whatever car I was going to get here.
He begrudgingly accepted defeat on that one.
As he was winding up, he casually slipped in that I wouldn’t have to worry about any tolls, as all that was prepaid.
“Oh, is it now?“ I asked him how much that was.
Reluctant to tell me, he muttered “$26 a week”.
I ever so politely told him that I didn’t intend to ride up and down through tolls for the entire holiday and we’d be fine to pay with cash.
Again, he reluctantly gave in, removed that charge and had me sign for the tank of gas, which is also a con, but at $45 not one I could be bothered arguing about now.
Feeling dirty and somehow invaded, I guided us across the road to the garage. Having waited an eternity to be almost fiscally raped at one desk, I could not understand why we now stood in another queue in the garage.
As we waited, Emily spied a car she hoped we’d have. I was less hopeful.
When served all they did was point us at the Economy row and tell me to pick one.
I would have, but the row was empty. I found an employee getting out of a car in the Compact row, and she told me to just take one of those instead! We chose the closest one to us, a white Ford Focus, the boot of which swallowed our luggage without noticing, and we were off. We should have chosen a different car, but all that will become clear a little later.
I never learn, and every year I am so keen to get where I am going that I set off without doing some basic essentials such as –
- Getting the seat into a position from which I can actually drive the car
- Working out what all the knobs and levers do
- Especially working out how to work the wipers, as it ALWAYS rains on our drive from the airport
As some sort of cosmic irony, after paying for a couple of tolls with paper dollars (not coins) at manned booths, as we left the 428 we came to an unmanned, exact change only toll for 75 cents. We did not have 75 cents and so we sat staring at the thing for a couple of minutes wondering what to do.
Eventually I took one of the envelopes that would allow me to pay by post, drove off and watched the camera flash away as it recorded my crime.
The chap at Thrifty was laughing manically back at the airport.
As ever, all my navigational confidence flew out of the window once I was actually trying to find our destination, despite dozens of trips in the past. Eventually, I found Old Key West, passing some landmarks we recognised.
I parked up in the short term check in car park, and left the ladies in the car.
This was a much better experience than Thrifty. I had checked in online weeks ago, so all I had to was collect the room keys/charge cards, not be given the PIN to operate them for charging (I would return tomorrow to sort that, as I didn’t know that yet), and then be told to wait a second.
Out of the back comes a chap carrying several balloons and a birthday badge for Emily.
I called in the shop opposite reception to get some drinks, and it was about then that I understood that I had not been issued with a PIN for the charge cards. They somehow sensed my exhaustion and let me process the $9 order without one. Despite my incredible tiredness, I was quite intrigued by the new contactless payment pod things.
Upon returning to the car, this particular eighteen year old quickly regressed to a six year old, bouncing up and down on the back seat as she grasped her balloons.
I had been given (bad) directions to our building, but as we were approaching twenty two hours of awakeness now, my brain refused to compute them. After taking much longer than it should, we found our room and dragged our cases and weary bodies into it.
We quickly found our way around, the girls getting on the wireless within seconds of arriving, and collapsed into bed.
The room was lovely and as I’d been told, larger than your average Disney room. As we all enjoyed the sensation of being in bed, a massive thunderstorm was going on. It was so close and loud that it made the headboard shake. As soon as the kids were asleep, the headboard would be doing so again, no matter how tired I was. I do tend to snore quite violently when so tired.
It was good to be home.
I hope you enjoyed Day One. Should anyone reading this be new around here and by some strange quirk of fate you haven’t heard me prattling on about my book before, you may wish to go and buy it. You can find Mkingdon’s Tales of Family Food and Florida on Amazon, and it contains ten year’s worth of similar (very similar) reports going back to 2003.
Till the next time…..