Airport Conventions

Well, here we are. The final post before our next adventure. At times I have seriously doubted that this countdown would ever end. It’s been a struggle I’ll be honest and one of the toughest to get through, but of course that may just be perception and me being a drama queen.

To add some last-minute spice to the mix, my Mum is hospital, suffering from some sort of virus/infection. She’s on the mend I think with some antibiotics and TLC and hopefully she’ll be home and fully on the mend before we leave.

As always seems to be the case, the final week at work has been a doozy, spectacular in its shitness, just to ruin any potential joy of knowing it is my last for a while. Work is doing its best to keep its icy tendrils dug deep into my being until the last possible moment . Hopefully, I’ll be able to switch the work brain off at Manchester airport as I remove my work email account from my phone for a couple of weeks with a deep joy.

Still no bloody FastPasses for Flight of Passage or Slinky and believe me, I’ve been trying. It’s personal now. I didn’t want to ride the bloody things anyway.

As it’s been far too long since we went away, the reminder of how stressful the final few days can be had been forgotten. There are a million things to sort out, mainly pet related, mixed with a good amount of work nonsense that I can’t detail here. Add to that my recurring waking nightmare of realising just when it is too late that I have forgotten something, and I will be delighted when we are finally on our way.

The holiday haircut has happened. Spending so long in the chair can be tiring in itself as I’m sure you will appreciate. Thankfully, it was a different chap this time, and one that doesn’t feel the need to make conversation. The toenails have been cut, and it is important that everyone appreciates this level of personal grooming. It’s all part of the million small parts that go into making one of these trips work.

We are so close now. I can almost taste that going on holiday excitement. The traditional by the door photo will need to be tweaked this time. Rebecca has had the audacity to go and live elsewhere, so she won’t be “home” on the morning we leave. Don’t worry, I will creatively solve this issue and we may even have some new photos and traditions now!

The early alarm call, the panic to get last-minute stuff into the cases, standing at the front window looking for the taxi whilst simultaneously shouting at females to be ready, trying not to get tearful whilst saying goodbye to the dogs and telling them you won’t be long, even though you will, and they have no idea what you are saying, and then the surreal journey to the airport. The sun is rising over the sewage works as we cross Barton Bridge by the Trafford Centre. The tiredness and adrenaline give a nice spaced out vibe as you’re new “what are you travelling in” clothes feel like you are wearing someone else’s gear. We are a beautiful mess of new trainers, bumbags and comfy pants.

As we come off the M60, I check Ryan for the 373rd time to make sure the passports are there and we then are deposited into departures, sweating slightly due to luggage exertions, craning necks to check the nearest screen for information on your check in desk.

The double-edged sword of wanting to be checked in within seconds, and knowing that in two weeks you would give several body parts to be right back at this point battle within your brain before security is endured followed by a huge breakfast, some WH Smith browsing and the purchase of some overly priced smelly liquids in duty-free precede us sitting at the gate with a Starbucks and a feeling that I’ve already put all the weight back on that I spent the last few weeks taking off.

This routine is so familiar it’s like a family friend.

Thanks for sticking with me during this countdown. Stick around for some social media action, including some Facebook live stuff as and when appropriate. Say hello, either online or if you happen to be over there with us, in person. Even if you don’t want to talk to me, which is understandable, you can have a photo with Ryan if you like.

We made it! See you back here on the 16th of September.

Till the next time……

Yearn To Fly

Yearn To Fly

I’ve not known what to do with myself this week. With no FastPasses to book, it has been a bit of an anti-climax following two weeks of frantic button pressing. I have been randomly trying the app to see if any Flight Of Passage (or Slinky Dog) FastPasses become available. Not for me it seems. It’s becoming a bit of a bee in my bonnet if I’m honest, especially with Emily regularly reading me loads of posts from Orlando Facebook groups all pronouncing how easy it has been for them to secure them.

I find this unacceptable. Don’t Disney know who I am? I am a world-famous blogger with handfuls of readers. I am a high level influencer with several top brands relying on me to promote their goods. Bright white trainers, twenty year old Adidas rucksacks, hair products, man thongs and other such things are just a few examples of the huge impact my implied approval can have.

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How Disney can allow me to be denied a ride on one of their attractions is beyond me. One utterance of my displeasure and all of my readers will never darken their doors again….probably. I am in no way resentful that my yearning to fly up a passage will go unsatisfied.

I did a bit of a “try on” session last week. Louise started getting stuff organised, with the case brought out to sit in the bedroom like some portent of impending joy and she needed to know which T-shirts I’d be taking. It was at this point that I realised that I have a lot of T-Shirts. To be fair, they come in many sizes to accommodate me in varying states of shape. With my pre-holiday weight loss regime almost done, I can fit into most of them for now, so I have some tough decisions to make as we near packing time.

That hasn’t of course stopped me ordering one more. We have decided not to do full costumes for Mickey’s Not So Scary due to fears of being too hot, but themed (non-matching) T-Shirts are the order of the day. Mine arrives shortly and you shall have to wait to see it in the trip report. I will set your expectations now that it probably isn’t worth the wait.

My dollars arrived this week too. There weren’t as many as I might have wished for due to the atrocious state of the exchange rate, but that is something I can’t affect so I’ll just silently fume about it and feel like I am being persecuted by the currency, Slinky Dog and Flight Of Passage Gods.

I do feel more organised than I did this time last week. I have gathered all the documents I need and they nestle in my planning folder ready to be tucked into Ryan. Yes, I do put them in the order in which they will be required during our journey…what of it?

One of those documents came from the villa owner, who sent me the instructions for our stay. It comes in three volumes, with a page count to rival a Tolkien novel. It may take me the whole nine-hour flight to digest the complex and intricate requirements to gain entry first to the gated community and then the villa. The recycling and refuse routine is one step down from launching a manned mission to Mars and if we don’t get something wrong during the trip it will be a miracle.

We have reviewed the food menu and entertainment options for the flight and both look promising. Of course, Rebecca, Tom and Emily, having Freddie on their row will be watching nothing with a ten month old to entertain, but I am hopeful I can squeeze a good number of films in to fill the time. Granddad privileges. I have served my time and have the Polly Pockets to prove it.

So now, all that is left is to fret about all the usual stuff. Will I get everything done at work that I need to pre-launch? Will we all fit into the taxi to the airport with our luggage, stroller and car seat? Will the journey be OK? Will I forget some crucial detail or document and ruin the whole trip? Will everyone enjoy the trip I’ve planned? Will the two weeks fly by in about two seconds? Well, yes it will, so I am reminding myself to soak up every moment, including the foreboding prospect of the long flight, and my insatiable desire to power through all the admin crap at Orlando airport and be released into the wild in my shiny hire car (van).

With one more blog to go before we leave, there will then be a brief pause to blogging whilst we holiday. On my return, the trip report shall commence. If you have any like-minded Disney friends whose Sundays you’d like to ruin, howsabout you share this crap with them? Encourage them along to marvel at our food consumption and let’s see if we can get my readership into double figures.

If they Like the Facebook page and/or follow me on Twitter, not only will they be alerted with each new post of the trippie, but during the holiday I’ll be over sharing all sorts of exciting updates, almost certainly to be food related.

Our digits will be single tomorrow. All of our suffering will end shortly.

Till the next time…..

Every Little Thing About The Magic

As much as everyone here in the world of Mkingdon will be delighted to finally be on this bloody holiday, that surely is nothing compared to the sheer joy for both of my readers who are being subjected to this tortuous and constant over sharing of every tiny detail.

Not long now.

Anyway, onwards with that over sharing, yes?

Not being one to leave things until the last-minute (that can’t be a surprise to you?) my mind has been working overtime, making both mental and physical lists of stuff I’ll need to get organised. This ranges from dog walkers, dog sitters, instructions for both, currency, the tragedy of the exchange rate, and this week most crucially, the contents of Ryan for the flight. Yes we have two weeks to go and I agree that I shouldn’t have left it so late!

The filling of Ryan involved the ransacking of several bedroom cupboards, wondering in which “really obvious” place I had put all that stuff I now needed after our last trip. This included, but was not limited to, my bumbag, a veteran of dozens of trips. I shudder to think how much cash has passed through its zips and compartments over the years.

The camera of course and this year I have a lovely new one, a Canon G7X, courtesy of Emily last Christmas, which is a far better a piece of kit than I’ll ever be a photographer and clearly, being a planning genius with foresight a plenty, a load of quarters that had been stuffed into my bumbag last year. This is very wise, as we typically get stuck at a toll booth after leaving the airport waving $50 bills at an automated teller that only takes coins. Somehow, we also returned last year with $1 in actual note form which I had saved. Returning with $1 in cash is another sign that my obsessive planning skills are a cause for concern. Anyway, that dollar will help our budget this year no end. I bought it at a crazy rate, something like 1.40 so it will represent great value for money indeed.

A new addition this year and again, another excellently thoughtful gift, this time from Rebecca and Tom was this, my official trip report notes book.

Usually I grab something from WH Smiths at the airport, but this, official Mkingdon merchandise is surely a line of business I should pursue to fund my early retirement. Let me have your orders as and when….

The FastPass fun continued last week and was broadly a success.  I left you at the end of last week’s post on the 3rd of September having just secured our Hollywood Studios FastPass+ bookings. Of course we didn’t get Slinky Dog, and as you’ll see when we get to the Animal Kingdom day shortly we also didn’t get Flight of Passage as we are just never that lucky, but no matter. Well, it does matter and I’m incredibly bitter but that won’t change things will it?

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So the 4th of September, according to the plan, was a rest day. We have a long track record of planning rest days which somehow then turn into very busy days, and this was another. The plan said we were to go out for a large breakfast . These are not possible on theme park days as that is vital “doing stuff” time, so a rest day affords us the chance to eat ourselves to a near death experience. Keke’s is the plan, with some resting in a food coma for the rest of the day, desperately trying to get hungry again for our dinner at Cowfish around 5pm. Then we are to go into Magic Kingdom to watch Happily Ever After as for reasons, it will be the only chance we get to this trip.

I couldn’t resist seeing if there were any good FastPasses around just before the fireworks and got a bit carried away, mainly as I managed to snag a Mine Train FastPass. Add to that a Winnie The Pooh and a Buzz Lightyear Spin and all of a sudden we needed to be in Magic Kingdom by 5.40 and Cowfish was brought forward to an earlier time to accommodate that. We will have a job on our hands to feel hungry but, we must make sacrifices for the plan.

Onto the 5th, and Animal Kingdom. Despite being on the app seconds after 12, of course Flights of Passage was unavailable. We happened to be in the car at the time and so it was down to Emily and an intermittent signal to secure the necessary. She played a blinder, her finely honed phone thumbs flying across the app to get us, Everest, Na’vi River Journey and the Safari all by lunch. By the way, we hope to have that lunch at the Satu’li Canteen place before again fighting to get hungry for our traditional Yak & Yeti reservation at 6.15. Technically we have two reservations at 6.15 and 6.30 as I was unable to get one for seven, but could somehow get one for four and one for three fifteen minutes apart.

We’ll see after that if we want to stick around for Rivers of Light or not.

We’re now at the stage of the trip where we will be visiting parks for the second day. This is a luxury we have not been availed of for a while as, and I may have mentioned this before, on our last trip, we spent most of the holiday on a beach and only had four days at Disney. So this pleases me.

However, with a second day at Hollywood Studios planned for the 6th of September, and that park being in a state of flux I was/am slightly fearful that we wouldn’t be able to fill it. Having bagged three headliners on our first day, we now had some flexibility. It goes without saying that we didn’t get Slinky dog again. Other, less deserving folks got that again.

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Anyway, we went with Star Tours, Rock n Rollercoaster again (you can never ride it too much) and Alien Swirling Saucers. We plan to nip out to Bahama Breeze for tea (dinner) before returning to watch the Star Wars fireworks thing for the first time ever. We were irked on our last visit to find that it started at the exact moment Fantasmic finished, making it impossible to do both.

The 7th of September is a day off from the FastPass malarkey, as we are at Typhoon Lagoon with The Cheesecake Factory for tea. So on to the 8th….

A return to Epcot for what will be a third time, but crucially for our first full day here. We kick off with the third of the big three, Test Track, followed by the Freddie friendly Turtle Talk and Journey Into Imagination. Having done a couple of late afternoon/evenings in this park already by this stage of the trip we plan to leave for dinner at Teak, one of our absolute favourites.

The 9th is our character breakfast at O’hana, some resting and then we are off to Magic Kingdom for our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I have secured a couple of tactical FastPasses from 4pm before the park closes to non party guests. We can do Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight before 6pm when we will be consumed with candy collection, special parades, fireworks and hopefully rides with no wait times.

The 10th is another day with no FastPass requirements as we are resting. We have brunch at Hash House a Go Go, a trip to A&E to address our gluttony, some wandering around Disney Springs and dinner at the Olive Garden at Lake Buena Vista. The evening is pencilled in for a Boardwalk visit.

So that leaves us with our last full day. Even the thought of booking FastPasses for our last full day makes me sad and emotional. We are of course in the Magic Kingdom, but with a twist. There is another Not So Scary party that evening so the park will close at 6pm. So instead of our usual last night watching of fireworks and some tears, we shall adjourn to Epcot, and watch some fireworks and shed some tears instead. The FastPasses for our day were secured a few moments before posting this and they are….

Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid

Splash Mountain

Thunder Mountain

We finish strong with a couple of headliner favourites, before heading over to Epcot for final fireworks, tears and the start of the planning of how quickly we can get back.

Finally this week, I have a confession to make. Usually I am a pioneer of tastes and trends. I shape the zeitgeist, I set the pace and forge my own path. However, last night, I was led by the nose to a decision. In this case I am grateful to be that social media sheep. We were watching a recent Tracker video where they visited La Hacienda. We must have walked past this place hundreds of times over the years and never given it a thought, so caught up in a wave of pre-trip excitement, I accepted the challenge of trying to fit just one more meal into our bulging dining plans.

I think I did OK. A quick search found me a 7.45 reservation on my birthday when we of course are due to be in World Showcase anyway. The fact that we are at Beaches & Cream at 3.40 on the same day is merely a challenge that we need to rise to.

Whilst there can be no guarantee that we will be within viewing distance of the fireworks, the fact that I will be laying it on thick to the greeter about it being my birthday and three of our parties first visit, I am hopeful we will be eating somewhere close enough to a window to see some of Reflections of Earth.

We should be able to stretch the meal out for just over an hour, to get to the 9pm start time even if it means some of us having seven courses to do so. I suspect that restaurant has had a lovely uptick in bookings due to that video, but I don’t mind moving with the herd if I can eat lovely food in front of some fireworks.

Enough now.

Till the next time…..

Skecher Buy Golly Wow

Before we do this, I should warn you that this one may be longer than anything you’ve been used to.

Look at that. Even the innuendo engine is getting a warm up as we near take off.

Seriously though, this one goes on a bit and if you’ve ever (always) read these posts, marvelling at how sad I am that I spend so much time and effort over planning stuff, then this one may not be for you. This, dear reader, goes to a whole new level.

By the way, at Louise’s request I have added a few links to Disney terms in this post for folks reading this that are not au fait with da lingo.

Firstly, the important stuff.

Ryan is home and he will ride again. The lady did a great job on him and he is literally as good as new. You can all now rest easy.

Shit got real this week. It’s probably about time that I started blogging about my upcoming holiday don’t you think? You all must be dying to hear some of the detail by now.

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Tuesday saw the start of our FastPass+ journey, and it wasn’t good. It would be very sad if I had booked a meeting room at work to retire to just before 12pm so that I could concentrate fully on the task at hand. Yep, it would. These things are too important to be interrupted by a phone call or work based emergency.

On the off-chance that Disney would open up the date I was waiting on earlier than expected, I sat refreshing the site for a while, before finally seeing the new date appear at exactly 12pm.

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Bloody sticklers. Here we go, I thought, I’ll just quickly nab three passes and be on my way.

I am sorry to say that the site on which FastPasses are booked is not, or certainly was not on this day, fit for purpose. It was continually crashing, often so tantalisingly close to the end of the process that I almost cancelled the whole holiday. OK, maybe not, but it was bobbins.

After about ten minutes of frustrating red-faced repetition there was still no sign of success. Ooh, more innuendo…..once it is unleashed there is nothing to stop it…..ahh, now I am in an endless innuendo loop.

After a further twenty minutes I finally had one in the bag for Haunted Mansion, at 10:05. As pages loaded and then vanished, all I was seeing was the list of available attractions shrinking as my blood pressure and frustration grew. The whimsical error pages that Disney use when things go wrong were very quickly losing their appeal.

It was almost forty minutes after 12 that the site seemed to settle down and I was able to finish the job. I bagged Big Thunder Mountain at 12:25 and then, with Freddie in mind, Dumbo at 2:20. I totally understand why this could be an alien concept to normal holiday makers, but all these bookings fell nicely into place, not by accident I should say, with our plans for the day. Yes, I have planned to this very sad level of detail, mainly because I can. Knowing the park layouts so well, and how the day generally goes, my thinking is this.

We should be there before the park opens, and after a wander around the shops on Main Street and an inevitable Starbucks, position ourselves near Casey’s for rope drop. We shall saunter, nonchalantly left, using the stroller as a weapon of mass destruction across the bridge into Adventureland for Freddie’s first ever ride in a Disney theme park, on Pirates. With that being  pretty much a walk on, he said confidently, we shall then continue our journey to Splash Mountain, where the standby wait should still be tolerable and we can hopefully get that under the belt too. Of course, Freddie will have to sit this one out.

That should then allow us to wander down to Haunted Mansion for 10am ish to use our first FastPass. By then we’re at 10.30 and if previous first days are any form of precedent then we’ll need lunch, which I haven’t planned. I’m not a monster!

We shall probably eat, drink and see what we get on in Fantasyland, such as Philharmagic, the Carousel, and It’s A Small World should wait times be bearable.

Then our Big Thunder FastPass kicks in so we can walk back up there for that before amusing ourselves until the 2pm parade. The previous travel day and time difference will be kicking in by now and we’ll hopefully just manage our Dumbo FastPass before heading for the exit.

We have a 5pm Whispering Canyon ADR, so we’ll have to make a call at this point whether we try to get back to the villa for a shower and change or, if time is short, we do something like head over to the Contemporary for a drink in the Outer Rim bar. It has been declared that this place serves the best Long Island Ice Teas on the planet and this may be the only time we have this trip to get to sample one, apart from the mug who is driving.

I know this level of detail may sound nuts, but with a lot of expensively acquired experience and knowledge it’s possible and for me totally sensible. Hopefully it makes the day smoother, less stressful and more rewarding for all concerned. As long as time is allowed within this mental level of over planning for the metaphorical smelling of roses, photos in front of the castle and other good stuff all should be well.

The following day saw similar levels of thought and….

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We’ll be at Epcot, but not until the late afternoon/evening. Again, experience tells me that we suffer on day two. The jet lag, journey and adrenaline of day one can make another full day in a park a bit of a strain. So we’ll be at the villa for most of the day, celebrating my birthday a bit until our Beaches & Cream ADR at 3:50. I could only get four of us in for that so if the others can’t get a walk in we’ll eat elsewhere. So we expect to be in the park from around 5:30. When trying to slot some late in the day FastPasses in, thought was needed. The last thing you want to be doing is crisscrossing the park, so a route is needed.

With this in mind I secured The Seas with Nemo & Friends at 5:45. We can enter via International Gateway, wander down to Canada and watch Martin Short before I cry at the song. We will then make our way down to Nemo. We can then take our time to get back up to World Showcase, no doubt via Mousegear, to start the traditional tour of the World Showcase pavilions for my birthday. Of course, that allows us to do Frozen and a FastPass is sorted for 7:30. With ROE not until 10pm that day, that should give us enough time to wander most of the showcase before ending up in “our spot” on the bridge near France to watch the fireworks. We did have a spare FastPass slot left but there’s no point in cramming one in just for the sake of it. We probably wouldn’t get time to use it and that just means some other folks who would might miss out.

The next day we could book for this week oddly would see us in Epcot again (don’t question my planning!). Yes, don’t, as I honestly can’t remember why.

Anyway, this is a full-ish day in Epcot allowing for a later start due to the late ROE the night before. So again, thinking of a sensible route between FastPasses, we start with Spaceship Earth at 11:50 followed by (I am chuffed to say) Soarin’ at 12:25. That is always the prize FastPass for us, despite Louise’s trepidation and fear of “flying”.

In a blaze of glory we then move on to Mission Space at 2:35, timed perfectly just before we eat at Via Napoli at 3:40, saving us revisiting our food somewhere on the way to Mars. Whether we will be able to get on Test Track via standby or single rider, we shall see. One cannot be too greedy of course.

Yesterday we were able to book for the 3rd of September and that is Hollywood Studios and Labor Day too. I had to drop Emily off at the train station just before 12 as she was heading to London to watch Heathers. This meant that I was in central Manchester at 12, reliant on 4G and a following wind to secure what could be a tricky set of Fastpasses as, with Toy Story Land open, this would likely be the busiest park of our trip.

It was effortless. Aside from Slinky Dog being immediately unavailable a few seconds after 12pm, I easily secured Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania and Rock n Rollercoaster. I was pretty pleased with that. With that first one running until 10.35 we may be able to endure a bit of a queue to get onto Slinky if we are at the park for opening. We’ll see.

With FastPasses done for as far as I can do them, thoughts then moved on to other pressing matters. Yesterday was also new trainers day. They have to be bought a few weeks prior to departure so that they can be worn in nicely. After last year’s change from the traditional all white affairs, I must admit that I am now sold on a Skecher and wanted another pair of those. Usually, I buy everything online, but trainers, for a WDW trip have to be tried on in person. I cannot over emphasise the importance of comfortable footwear and no chances can be taken.

With that in mind, after dropping Emily off I headed for some actual shops. I ended up in Bolton town centre and despite living here all my life, I did not recognise the place. A few fruitless shop visits later and I was relying on google to find somewhere that actually stocked Skechers. My last resort was Debenhams and they had at least three pairs to choose from.

It was like a scene from Are You Being Served with an actual person attending to me, getting the right size from the back and at some point almost trying to apply some sales techniques to close the sale.

I walked away with a pair of comfy loveliness just in time to get back to my car before my 80p of parking ran out.

 

With that daring show of leg, I’m done, as I suspect are you.

Till the next time….

Book Cover