Scary Stuff

Before I begin, it’s only right that I share with you the results of my very scientific poll last week. For those who didn’t read that post…..get out…go on…if you aren’t here every week, begone, I hold no truck with part timers….ahem…

The poll was asking if the charges for parking your car at Disney resorts would make you reconsider staying on site. Turns out, for most it would…

I suspect there may be larger, more representative polling mechanisms than me asking my two readers, but it does seem that this new policy is causing folks to pause and consider their options. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. The entire Disney board, who read this blog every week, will no doubt be holding emergency meetings this week as a result of this.

On a journey that started in 1980 and has included more trips than I can remember (true story) it isn’t very often that I get to experience new Disney stuff on one of our Florida trips. Sure there are new eateries, and new rides along the way, but to do new stuff that we have never experienced before, we usually have to venture further afield.

The Keys, Daytona, Vero Beach, Naples, and Siesta Key have all featured in the quest to find new stuff and to make sure Louise tolerates us going to the same place all the time. We’ve loved them all by the way, and should time and money permit, we’d return to them all.

This week saw the booking of our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets. In all these years we have never done one of these party events and I am definitely looking forward to it. On our typical end of August trips, Halloween bursts out all over the Magic Kingdom on our last few days and with this holiday due to start a little later than normal, right at the end of August, we get the chance to do the party night.

With a complete disregard for my plan, Disney conspired to make life a little difficult. Despite the park hours saying that Magic Kingdom closed at 6.30 on the 6th of September, making me assume that we could safely bank on that being one of the dates for MNSSHP, it was not. Or at least there are no tickets available for that date right now. So, I had to do some swift emergency surgery to the plan, rejigging several days as if it were some trivial task. Should anyone less experienced than I attempt such a thing, disaster would surely ensue.

A future blog post will once again outline this new plan in graphic day by day detail. Try to manage your excitement and anticipation if you can.

To cut a medium length story short, we are now doing Not So Scary on the 9th of September and for reasons I won’t bore you with, it looks like we’ve had to cut Edison from our dining plans as a result. That was caused by a chain of events and a line of thinking that you wouldn’t believe even I were to explain it. In summary, it was either Edison or Olive Garden for the chop and as the latter’s Lasagne is Emily’s favourite food on the planet it was a short decision making process.

Somehow this change meant that we needed somewhere to eat a late lunch at on the day of MNSSHP, off-site, so we could go back to the villa to change as we didn’t want to turn up anywhere in our costumes before heading to Magic Kingdom for the party! So on the 9th we will be resting poolside for the morning and then around 2pm, venturing out to eat before going back to the villa to change into our elaborate costumes. It has been decided that this shall be Miller’s Ale House on the 192. We’ve done it once before and their wings and cheesy fries are excellent.

The double edged sword of doing new stuff like MNSSHP is that, yay, it’s all new and exciting, but, boo, I don’t know what I’m doing so much. So research is needed. Or I could just be lazy and ask you lovely folks the current question in my mind…and that is…

It rings a vague bell that there are rules around Halloween/character costumes, and adults cannot wear “proper” costumes, I assume for fear that some guests may mistake other guests for characters? I can see the risk as even out of costume I am constantly assumed to be Gaston, Prince Charming and/or Hercules. It’s a bother. So what can we wear? I see pictures of folks in “full costume” when I look online but it would be good to hear from some folks with personal experience and/or real knowledge unlike me!

Beyond my plan to recoup the price of the ticket in the amount of candy gathered, what other tips would you give to a first timer at Not So Scary?

For those of you who enjoy a Freddie photo. Here is a significant one, his first passport photo. I think he will be happy with that for the next few years!

Returning to normal life, I picked up my new (to me) car on Wednesday. I am probably the least petrol headed male in the UK, but still, it is always nice to get a new car and enjoy that smell for a few days at least. It has some groovy toys like a reversing camera, which I’m sure is handy if you are not a parking God like myself. It also has heated seats, which will definitely be useful and used as it seems winter has come for good and we are destined to live on single digit temperatures for the next 27 years. I have had a hot bottom for years and this will only enhance it. Steady ladies!

Today, Mustard begin their wedding season. The first of our wedding bookings for the year happens today and I’ll be there for most of the day and night. By the time you read this, we shall probably be setting up our gear, sound checking and then hanging about for a long time. The actual playing of songs is always a small part of the life of a function band. Without roadies and an entourage, it is very much a “Do it all ourselves” approach with the highlight being the pleasure of packing everything up, getting it into the car and then unloading it back into the house at some stupid time in the early hours. Safe to say, we do not do it for money!

Enjoy your Sundays.

Till the next time….

Park Strife

Park Strife

There has been no booking of ADRs in the past week which has made it all the tougher. Staring longingly at the plan during weeks like the last one goes some way to lessen the burden of some of the absolute shite I have to endure to earn a living. Being able to book ADRs for an upcoming trip is a cure for most such ills and I have missed it.

My mood has not been improved by the weather over the weekend either. It’s the middle of bloody March, with British summer time imminent, and this shite white stuff has caused Mustard to miss their gig this weekend. We were due to be out in Buxton, which according to the internet is pretty much closed, so it was the correct decision to cancel, but an upsetting one.

Yesterday, despite the snow, we had a ride out to the local car showroom to discuss changing my car. It’s coming up on three years old and is about to start needing an MOT and no doubt lotsa money spending on it. So it didn’t take long to come to a deal to change to a newer model of what I have currently, with a welcome warranty, three years of servicing and a better spec for the same monthly money. Hopefully I’ll be picking it up during the coming week.

We have also started to plan Rebecca’s 21st birthday party. After saying for a long while that she didn’t want a party, it turns out she does. I have to say we were shocked! So we have swiftly moved into action, booking a function room at my Dad’s golf club for early May, arranging the obligatory buffet and booking an excellent, top notch function band called Mustard. We got a great deal from them!

It may not surprise you to discover that the party will be Disney themed. Costumes are being sourced as we speak!

In other non Williams news last week, Disney, as it sometimes does announces something that really upsets some folks. It would appear that on-site guests now need to pay a parking charge per night at Disney resorts. It does seem that UK bookings are exempt, but I could be wrong on that, but naturally the Disney internet community has, I believe the phrase is, blown up this week with much discussion of this change.

It begs the question, when does a Disney holiday become just too expensive? The answer may well be different for each individual, and not being a regular on-site guest, and not from the US, this one doesn’t immediately impact me, but this sort of extra, along with what seems the weekly increase in parking charges for the theme parks can come over as a little greedy from a company that makes billions of profits.

Now, as much as my love for the Disney brand and experience can blind me to many things, it does not stop me appreciating that they are a public company, who exist to make profits. I’m sure they have done some extensive and expensive market research before launching this new charge, but it is a strange one. I have personally paid a parking charge at other Florida hotels, including Universal, but to me at least, it matters a little less as those stays tend to be quite short. If I were to stay at a Disney resort for two weeks or more, this new charge would begin to bite into my budget and ultimately either restrict my spend on other areas and/or tempt me to stay elsewhere.

I suspect any down turn or back lash will be minimal and there are enough people still willing to pay what is required to holiday in Disney and ultimately their balance sheet will look a little better. It would cost you $24 a night to self park your car at a deluxe resort. So that’s $336 for a two week stay. Does that matter? If you can afford to stay at the Grand Floz for two weeks surely that’s a minor dent in your budget? However having stayed at another Deluxe, the Beach Club, I have to say that extra amount would be significant enough for me to have to consider it.

Perhaps they are doing it to discourage folks from driving? A green agenda and a tax on cars in a country so obsessed with motor vehicles seems unlikely and that would inevitably put a strain on the Disney transportation system too. Add to that the fact that day guests, visiting a resort to dine or look around do not pay the charge, it all seems just a bit odd. The official line seems to be that it brings them in line with industry standards, but it could be argued their room rates have always been slightly above that so adding this in may push them out of the price range of some folks.

Anyway, we’re in a villa this time round, so I’m alright Jack!

There is no escaping that a Disney trip is an expensive business. Especially for us UK visitors. We have to fly over lots of water at great expense, and typically stay for at least two weeks to make that journey worthwhile. This might explain the UK exemption?

But what’s next? With Disney fans always willing to pay for that “extra special thing” to make their trip that little bit different and memorable, Disney already have a million ways to part guests from their cash. The sacred cow may be charging for FastPasses and/or some sort of front of line experience. Would Disney go there? I hope not. There’s already a train of thought in Disney online communities that the ” average” family is being priced out of a trip, and with there seemingly no longer being a quiet time in the parks, charging folks to beat the lines seems punitive.

So, I’d be interested in your thoughts. If these parking charges do eventually apply to UK guests, would it change your thoughts and plans about staying on-site?

Till the next time……

Party Of Seven

Party Of Seven

I shall start with what the kids these days call a shout out! It is a double one in fact as today is not only Mother’s Day, but also my Mum’s birthday, and a significant one too. Happy Birthday Mum and Happy Mother’s Day to you and all the other Mum’s in my life, Louise, Mary (Mother in law) and Rebecca. You are all awesome and I’ll be seeing you all later to state this in person.

It’s been a busy week of organising what we’ll be eating in 180 days time. This is completely normal. I don’t know what we’re having for tea tonight, but I do know our dining arrangements for late August/early September.

Last week’s post brought news of our first ADR at Whispering Canyon. So far that successful streak has broadly continued despite some hurdles along the way. My spider senses were spot on with my concerns over trying to book Beaches & Cream for a party of seven. My first few searches resulted in a quack quack oops (ah, DLT, may God have mercy etc) and this was disturbing as I really want the Kitchen Sink experience for the newbies in our group.

By reducing our party size I did begin to see some options appearing and eventually booked a table for three at 3.50. Once that was secured, I went to edit it and tried to up the party size to seven. It was having none of it, but it did let me increase it to four. In an act of desperation I fell on my sword and had to make *that* phone call to Disney. Now, I haven’t phoned for an ADR in years so can someone please explain how I remembered the phone number, international codes and all? I spoke with an actual cast member, put on my best Hugh Grant accent and asked for a table for three around the same time. The cast member was lovely, but had nothing. Ah well, at least I had exhausted all options.

So the plan is for four of our party of seven to go and do that and Louise and I, with either Freddie or Mikey to walk up to The Fountain¬†at The Dolphin for a similar soda shop experience, if of course we can’t secure a walk up around that time.

The next day was relatively straight forward in comparison as we were not trying to fit a party of seven into a restaurant the size of our front room. Via Napoli, Emily’s choice, was our aim and albeit a little earlier than we had originally planned we snagged a table for seven at 3.40. I’m fairly happy with that time as by the time we finish, it won’t be long until dusk, when Epcot’s World Showcase transforms from one of my favourite places in the world to one of my favourite places in the world with twinkly lights and fire torches.

Having stated on several occasions that “we don’t need many ADRs” the next day was our first ADR free day so there was no booking to be done. For those who care, it is a day filled with Toothsome for lunch and Applebees for tea (dinner). I see no issue with that, and that may indeed be a problem.

We are now up to the 3rd of September and the plan says it contains one of the few full theme park days. We will be Hollywood Studios and there had been a request from Louise to dine at the Hollywood Brown Derby. With food, as with her men, her taste is for the classy. Now, I had done a little research into the Fantasmic Dinner Package. Despite several years in the noughties where we booked this thing at vast expense only for Fantasmic to be rained off, I am a glutton for punishment and wanted to book that again. Not having to sit on those bleachers for an hour with a numb bum and a bored ten month old appealed to me.

I don’t know why, but currently there are no dates beyond August for booking this package. Whilst this raises a small concern about Fantasmic being down (surely not), for now I have booked us an ADR at The Brown Derby and I’ll keep an eye on things and swap that to the package as and when it becomes available.

Onwards to the next day which again is a non ADR day with just some light bites at Keke for breakfast and Cowfish for tea. I may have a problem. I admit that.

The following day is another of those full theme park days at Animal Kingdom. This always has to include Yak & Yeti or Louise won’t let us go to Florida again. When trying to book this one we came up against the party of seven issue again. Not one option for that party size at all, so we had to search for a party of four. Having plenty of options for that and having booked for 6.30, another search for a party of three returned nothing, with a link to view my existing plans. This suggested to me that the web site knew I had a booking already and for that reason wasn’t letting me book another. We got a bit sneaky at this point, and we used Emily’s My Disney Experience account to search. Sure enough, she was presented with plenty of options and booked for three at 6.15. This seems a lot of faff for larger parties but as all Disney’s top executives read this every week, it’ll soon get sorted I’m sure. If for no other reason that as two seperate prties they can’t automatically add the 18% gratuity for parties larger than six.

Yesterday, I was looking at our plans for the 6th of September, when we plan to do the Not So Scary party. The plan says Olive Garden, but I had a tentative option of trying to get us into Be Our Guest. I was quite amazed to see an option for a party of seven and in a blur of excitement I booked it. It was only when the dust had settled that I realised it was Quick Service lunch at 2.30. With a second look, there are no times being offered beyond 2.30. Usually you can search for any time and just get no results, but there are no later times shown as a search option, so I’m guessing that’s because of the early closing of the park for the party.

Anyway, I cancelled that Be Our Guest reservation as we’ve done lunch there before and it doesn’t compare to the dinner experience so I’ll see if we can get that booking on another day.

So that’s been my week. I’ve somehow managed to fit in a really busy week at work and a gig this weekend too. I am impressed if nobody else is!

We are pretty much done now for ADRs beyond that vague intent to try and get into BOG at some point and Edison. However, if we get BOG, we may have to sacrifice Edison to fit that in. NASA have less complicated plans for space exploration.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted after all that.

Till the next time….

Appy Eater

Unlike last week’s pity fest, this post will be a moan free zone….probably.

That is more a case of my restraint from inflicting more of it on you, than there being nothing to moan about, but still, that’s progress on last week, yes?

Our holiday officially started yesterday. Sure, there were still 180 days before we stepped onto the plane but that doesn’t matter. I booted up the My Disney Experience app, updated our touring party and got on with sorting out our first ADR.

It’s not that I expected to have too much trouble getting that first one in the bag but it is still nice to get the first part of the puzzle in place. The hardest part of this ADR for our first day was predicting our energy levels at that time of day and knowing what time to make the reservation for. After the first day awakening sometime after 2am, I am slightly concerned that we may be asleep by 5pm Orlando time, but I think first day adrenaline will see us through.

I don’t expect us to have gone the whole day in Magic Kingdom and then go straight over to Wilderness Lodge, but hey, if we do then that’s a bonus, but in reality I would imagine we will head back to the villa mid-afternoon for resting and showers before driving to Whispering Canyon.

If anyone is feeling a little drowsy then the servers will soon see to that!

I’ve just tried to get our next ADR, for the following day, which will be my birthday. The Disney app is not awake yet and is giving me errors when I try. I am a little concerned about this one as we need a booking for a party of seven at Beaches & Cream. Knowing the layout of that establishment pretty well, that may not be physically possible. Hopefully they will let us book as a seven and then split us between two tables when we are seated.

We have been seated at the counter previously with a party of six, which was OK but I’d prefer a couple of booths/tables. This level of knowledge and preparation for some ice cream could be seen as over the top. You and I know better don’t we?

The time we want may help, as I’m hoping to get us in around 2pm, when hopefully the lunch rush is coming to an end, and once we have ingested a week’s calories, we shall be off for my usual birthday tour of the World Showcase with the day ending with ROE. That is of course unless Disney have replaced it by then. Rumours have surfaced this week that that this is likely and it may not be too far away. Now, as much as I would rather this didn’t happen, I always trust Disney to get the replacement right, but I would rather it happened after I had one last time to watch and appreciate it in a torrent of tears and snot.

It has been a weird juxtaposition this week. With the weather here, walking the dogs has been an absolutely painful experience. I do not handle the cold well, it is obvious that I should be living in Florida’s glorious climate. At times, as the dogs played in the snow, the biting wind was coming close to having things fall off my body, some of them I still use. Literally at the same time I was on my phone, looking longingly at ludicrous wait times for rides and watching a few Tim Tracker videos on the telly (well, I was working from home due to the snow!). Hang on, this is bordering on a moan, let’s move on.

Last night, Louise was out on a do with work, so I took the opportunity to take a beautiful twenty two year old to the cinema. Emily and I watched Game Night and it was very good. I don’t think it’ll be winning any Oscars, but it was really good fun and an enjoyable watch.

In other news, tonight we have a very welcome guest. Rebecca and Tom are off out, and we are looking after this chap.

He is even sleeping over, so we are very excited. However, if he wakes during the night, I shall be less so. Freddie has started on a few spoonfuls of baby rice this week. He is developing so quickly it is scary. Mind you, he does have to get ready for a Doughnut Burger in September so it’s for the best!

On the subject of Freddie beginning his journey with food, this was being discussed this week in our family Facebook chat group. I have to say I was quite pleased with my GIF skills, so in a rare show of self congratulation I shall end this week’s post with this…

Till the next time…..