My Technical Romance

Being right all of the time can be a bit of a burden. It has taken Louise a number of years to get used to that fact and be able to live her life ignoring it. Last week, once again, a prediction I made came true.

I found five minutes mid-week to look at the legendarily (at least for me) painful task of linking our shiny new theme park tickets to our My Disney Experience accounts. Our first FastPass+ date is the 31st of July, so, yes I know I was cutting it fine…..

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Once I had been through the process I tried to go through a dummy FastPass+ booking. These holidays don’t just happen, and nothing should be left to chance. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

I encountered an error. I was, quite frankly shocked. Shocked that there was only one error as in previous years, such an attempt had brought down the internet across the whole continent of Europe. It told me that Emily and Rebecca did not have valid tickets/park admission, despite the fact that I could see the tickets I had just added showing against each of their profiles. Sigh.

I tried clicking random shit on both the app and website hoping that this tried and trusted troubleshooting method would pay dividends but it did not. I resolved that I had no choice but to phone my friends at Disney. I was delighted to discover a UK free phone number, and yet more delighted to learn that this still connected to the treacle voiced cast members in the US, preceded by the best hold music on the planet. Once I had navigated a few IVR menus, and actually spoken to a human, I was told I was being put through to the My Disney Experience folks.

Jolly good. This should all be sorted in a matter of moments then. After a few moments on hold, a cheery automated message told me that due to higher than normal call volumes the current wait time was more than……two hours.

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I didn’t understand how the call volumes could be higher than normal if my experience of trying to link this stuff together was anything to go by. Surely every potential Disney guest has to resort to phoning them up?

As much as I was enjoying the hold music, which I think was Fantasmic, at that point, I did not feel Fantasmic about holding for two hours, so I hung up and sent them an email instead.

Fast forward two days, and with no response, and my obsessive, over planning itch glowing like a radioactive zit, I could wait no longer, and I phoned them again. This time the wait time was likely to be longer than…..fifteen minutes. Happy days.

I connected with Eliza, to whom I explained my issue, using my best “I am talking to an American so I have to be Hugh Grant” accent and she assured me this would be resolved sooner than immediately. It wasn’t.

Apparently although the cards had been linked to Emily and Rebecca’s profiles, the tickets elements had not. I’m not sure what that even means, but she seemed confident and put me on hold whilst she contacted the folks with access to the relevant buttons to make that so. A few minutes later she returned, apologising that those colleagues were not available, but she would be sure to send that request to them for them to action.

I asked if they would email me when this was done and she promised that would be the case. She asked if we were trying to make FastPass+ reservations today and I sheepishly had to explain that, no, I am an over planning nightmare with almost two weeks until I could actually do that. “OK” she said, with a tone loaded with judgement and resignation, as I was probably the twenty third person that morning to say the same thing.

It was at least forty minutes later that this appeared in my Inbox from Malcolm.

Dear Craig,

We are pleased to learn that you are planning to visit Walt Disney World® Resort!

We are happy to inform you that we were able to correct the challenges that occurred, and hope that you do not experience any other situations before or during your Magical stay with us! When you have a moment, please log on to your MyDisneyExperience account and verify that everything looks correct.

If you have any other questions or challenges, please do not hesitate to contact us by replying to this email or by calling us at 407-939-7765 and we will be more than happy to assist you further.

I love Malcolm.

Now, I haven’t even attempted to link any of those tickets to an actual Magic Band yet. Most of our party seem intent on buying new Magic Bands at ludicrous, unnecessary expense whereas I, sensibly, am more than happy to dig out my grey one from last time and use that, if of course, by any miracle I can figure out how to link my new ticket to it. The $25 saved will be a crucial element of our multi-thousand pound holiday budget. What odds I’ll be buying a new one with everyone else and having the shop link it for me? If only I worked in IT and knew about this sort of thing. I have Malcolm’s details now though and I’ll be making him regret that the minute I encounter further issues.

I love Malcolm.

Till the next time…..


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I Got The Muzak In Me

I Got The Muzak In Me

In a week when it all ended….the World Cup dream and for some, the glorious weather, it could be easy to feel a bit down. But, you know me, I am a constant beacon of positivity and unrelenting joy, so you won’t be finding that here.

The genius of the timing of our holiday this year is that just as everyone else will be lamenting the end of the summer holidays and grappling with the buying of school uniforms and the horror of doing the daily lunch box again, we shall be shedding the worries and woes of every day life and jetting off to kill ourselves with artery clogging amounts of food.

Having watched a bit of the Trackers this week, I have to say that WDW seems to be really upping its game on the food front, especially from a quick service point of view. There are not enough minutes or notches on my belt to fit in all the fantastic looking stuff I am seeing. It is a challenge I am willing to take on of course, and one that I feel the years of training on previous trips has prepared me for.

With a real risk of peaking too soon, WDW fever and excitement arrived bigly in the Mkingdon household this week. This visitor from the US was probably the most welcome one the UK saw, but that isn’t difficult. It’s a sign of how fevered said excitement is when Louise joins in. As enjoyable as she finds the trips, she does not share the obsession levels of the rest of us, but, at times, such as these, she’s all in. We’re ready!

There’s little that can happen to peak my excitement levels. They remain on a constant throughout the year, rising by small increments the closer we get to the next trip. Sometimes though, something sneaks up on you. It grabs your heart-strings, tumbles your tummy like a drop on a coaster and shoots fresh adrenaline through your veins. This is not some class A drug, well, not as everyone else understands that. It is something random, a smell, a memory, a feeling or in this case, some music.

Emily was up in her bedroom, working her way through her WDW play list yesterday afternoon. I was up and the down stairs packing all my band gear into the car for last night’s gig when I heard some familiar strains drifting down from her penthouse (converted attic). O Canada was the first. I cannot over document my affection and admiration for that song. I would sell my home and all its contents and give the meagre proceeds to any random Canadian citizen after hearing the first few bars.

On my next sweaty trip up the stairs to collect some other heavy musical object, it happened. My stomach flipped, the dizziness came and I was instantly transported to another place. It wasn’t last night’s food rebelling against me, no. It was this…

Now, there’s five hours of that thing so I apologise for ruining any plans you might have had for your Sunday. I chose to start that at a certain point for you, which was the theme that I heard Emily playing. I can’t begin to describe how tangibly that particular piece of music put me in Epcot in that second. I could feel it, smell it and touch it. Countless memories of so many trips, the heat, the bright sun, the torrential rain, the twinkling night-time lights, the excitement of the first Epcot day of the trip and the gut wrenching sorrow at the last. All of these, brought sharply to mind by one simple piece of music.

It’s a part of me, it’s a part of us. An immovable, unavoidable building brick of our family history. All of that from one small section of what some might call “muzak”. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right!

See what I mean about peaking too early? I have to go back to work tomorrow and pretend I’m both OK and actually interested in what’s going on. Surely if I played that to my boss and explained he’d be fine with me just not working until we go away? No, I suspect not. He’s never been. He was thinking about going once and asked my advice. I think I frightened him to death with the word document I just so happened to have on my laptop with detailed planning advice. I find it saves time.

In the end he went to California and did a road trip with three kids under ten. He didn’t go to Disneyland either. It was probably for the best. As other colleagues over the years have done, he may have returned underwhelmed and then I’d need to find a new job.

Till the next time…..

Breakfast Epiphanies

I didn’t have room/time to tell you last week, as I was too busy moaning about how I was absolutely in the right to be obsessed about a holiday. So, I’ll tell you now.

It would appear that I made a planning mistake!

I know, I know. I didn’t believe it either. A man of my experience, knowledge and girth does not make planning mistakes. The plan knows better than to include one. However, out of the blue Rebecca messaged our group chat thing (see how down with the kids and fly I am?) asking if the plan included a character breakfast.

By now, I know the plan. I don’t know it in absolute detail yet. I haven’t allowed my memory to retain all its glory yet as there is still the possibility of change until FastPasses are secured, but I know the general gist. So I referred to the plan, without referring to it….

I checked it twice.

It would appear that the plan did not contain said character breakfast, and for all the reasons already stated, this must be correct and as I had planned it.

Rebecca then pointed out that at some point in the past she had asked if we could do one, for Freddie’s sake. This rang a bell now, including the thin veneer of an excuse that this was to be for Freddie’s benefit.

Drat.

No matter. I rolled up my sleeves, fired up the laptop and got to work. It was a welcome distraction from Love Island to be honest which has now been on TV longer than Coronation Street.

As I was logging on to the laptop and stuff, Emily chipped in that if we were going to do one then she’d like it to be O’hana. Bloody demanding these daughters.

It only took a few minutes until I was satisfied. Wahey, that’s like the good old days when I wrote mildly amusing trip reports. Have it!

I had to identify a day in the plan with a morning that looked relatively free. I scanned the rest days we had planned and spotted a likely candidate. The morning when we would be doing MNSHHP in the evening had been designated a non-park day, with a lunch at Miller’s Ale House. As much as that is a nice place to eat, with O’hana now in play it was dumped quicker than Adam’s partners in Love Island. What? I am forced to watch the bloody thing every night. I can’t help absorbing some of the detail.

So we have secured a 9.20am breakfast on the 9th of September. I estimate this means that we will need to be up some time around 4am to make it on time.

In other news, with fifty odd days to go, Louise took it upon herself to let me know that I’m a fat bastard and drastic action was needed. She has got us both membership at the local gym for the next six weeks. Now, I have been eating more healthily for a week or two already so my body fat index is now close to 50% anyway, but the odd work out won’t do any harm I suppose. I have been every day this week, and felt close to death on each occasion, so I think I’m doing it right.

I mainly do cardio, as I don’t want to take my now naturally muscle-bound body and turn it into some sort of intimidating freak show by doing lots of weight work. I just want to lose a pound or fourteen. The fact that I can see no actual difference yet is not at all upsetting or demoralising. If I were to eat excessively for the same time period I would surely see the rewards of that by now. There is no justice.

So bear this in mind when you are shaking your head in disbelief at the amount of food I’m getting through on holiday. I will have earned every artery clogging mouthful. Don’t judge me!

I talk a lot about milestones, and another enjoyable and familiar one happened this week. Our theme park tickets dropped through the front door. For those interested, I used Floridatix. They have a deposit option which helped me order the 14 day ultimates at £350 each when they had a sale on a few weeks ago.

Here is the mandatory photo of our precious arrival…

It was pleasing to see that most of them sported a character that the girls could fight over (them being almost 23 and 21 changes nothing) and now we need to dig out all our magic bands from previous trips and go through the exercise of linking tickets to bands. Getting man on the moon was simpler and I implore Disney, in the name of Gary Sinise’s hair on Mission Space, to make this stuff easier.

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We also got our MNSHHP tickets, which were surprisingly not flimsy paper based things, but rather sturdy plastic affairs that one could easily mistake for a theme park ticket. Not that a man of my experience might……anyway moving on.

We’re getting closer folks.

During last week I was inundated with a message from a blog reader asking if I was going to do a trip report for this holiday. With a surge of demand like that, who am I to say no? As it has been the case for the last few, I’ll be posting it here, probably one day per week, so it will last roughly half the time of the current series of Love Island and will contain me sporting my “Love Island” physique, after my gym exploits.

So spread the word, tell your friends, tell your family, tell all those folks who used to go on The Dibb! This is where it’s at. If you think “it” is a middle-aged bloke recounting another Florida trip with the odd knob gag shoe horned in. Build it and they will come….

Till the next time…..Save on Orlando's Best Theme Parks!

Bar Bar Bar, Bar Barber Rant.

Bar Bar Bar, Bar Barber Rant.

Before we go any further, you of course will know that today is Canada Day. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you will understand my enormous affection for Canada based purely on my experience of the pavilion at Epcot. This does not me make me shallow and puerile!

As I do every year, join me as I commemorate the occasion the only way it should be….

If Mikey and Tom are reading this, as folks who have not been yet, that video will make absolutely no sense whatsoever, but don’t worry it soon will. Suddenly we find ourselves under 60 days away from the start of our trip and the thought of being able to experience that in person is getting to fever pitch.  This weekend has seen some significant milestones pass, mainly in the form of paying the balance on stuff.

Theme park tickets, Not So Scary tickets and the hire car are all settled up and  next week will hopefully see the very exciting event of the park tickets arriving through our door and everyone choosing the character they want to be, despite the fact that these days Magic Bands make that a little superfluous. Somehow, the holiday seems a lot closer. We go next month, the weather has been Florida-esque and there has been a real buzz (pun intended) around the opening of Toy Story Land. We’re all experiencing a level of excitement a few notches up from where it was just last week.

Speaking of excitement. I went for a hair cut last week. I know it may come as a shock to many of you that this is a requirement for me but hair grows sporadically and often in places one wouldn’t wish it to, so it must be attended to.

Having spent the usual couple of hours with my “stylist” discussing options, we dismissed the idea of a fringe as it wouldn’t suit me and I finally took my place in the chair and he began to work his magic.

As ever, that awkward conversation started. I’d rather sit there in silence to be honest, but he feels obligated and I have to pretend to be tolerant of people for the several hours it takes to craft my current hair style.

We have nothing in common. He rides a motorbike, vapes, and judging by his chat with other customers before me, spends his time at 90’s themed dance festivals and bike rallies. So once we had exhausted common ground in the first seven seconds, he was spent and had to resort to the stereotypical conversation that hairdressers are renowned for. Yes, he dresses my hair, stop singgering!

“Are you going away this summer?” he asks, not really caring about my holiday plans.

“Yes, we’re going late August”.

This distracted him. It clearly reminded him that he was closing for a week mid-August and keen for me not miss my pre-holiday hair appointment spent the next few minutes telling me about said closure and why he decided to close up for a week. I didn’t mind. I thought this distraction had prevented me giving him any details of my upcoming trip.

A few more minutes went by cloaked in uncomfortable silence.

“So…..where are you off to?” he asked as if interested.

Inwardly I groaned. Should I lie and tell him Majorca or Greece? Knowing my luck he’d be an expert on both and I’d be speared on my white lie within seconds.

“Florida.” I said, hoping that might be the end of it.

“Ohhhhh, Florida” he said in a way which suggested I might not enjoy the next few minutes.

He went on.

“Have you been before?” he asked.

What do I say now? “Yes, I have been going since 1980 and have spent huge swathes of every waking moment thinking about going, planning each meal like a military operation and writing about it for strangers on the internet”.

“Yes, a few times” I say instead.

The pain was not for abating.

“Yeh, we went in 2009. Didn’t do Disney of course as it was just four adults….”

“We did Busch, Sea World, Universal and Wet & Wild.”

My forced smile just about held up.

“So you like all that theme park stuff then?” he continued.

Now at this point I can either come up with some pithy response or batter him to death with his shaver.

“Yes. We’ve done all sorts over the years, but this time it’s all Disney. We’re taking our Grandson for the first time”.

Why do I feel the need to justify this to him?

“My idea of hell that.” he said with a lack of regard for another person’s feelings I can’t fathom. I never understand folks with a point of view so ill-formed yet so forcibly expressed. Mind you, have you read my tweets?

“We’ll have to go back” he says, as if he’s referring to a colonoscopy and not a holiday. “My daughter’s getting to that age where she’ll appreciate it now”.

Thankfully, my “look” was complete at this point, and I went through the ludicrous routine of looking at the back of my head in the mirror he was holding up and saying something like..

“Yep, looks great thanks”. The last time any part of my head looked great was sometime in 1993.

We parted ways with an exchange of monies for his efforts in creating the masterpiece which I now sport and he reminded me when he would be closed in August so I didn’t miss my holiday hair cut.

I can’t wait.

I know Florida isn’t for everyone, I know out of the two of us he’s the “normal” one, and I know holidays probably shouldn’t be an obsession, but I’m still absolutely right. I know we’re a strange breed and should I ever have to confess the true level of the obsession and the efforts that go into each trip I may be barred from his and all hair establishments in the area. Still, if they insist on asking predictable questions like that, it’s their own fault.

Anyway, 59 days…..

Till the next time…..


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