I tend to be excellent at being average. I have never excelled at any sport, which with my physique must be a shock to you all, my career does not deserve closer investigation or praise and musically I am proficient and efficient without being spectacular. On darker days I am less pragmatic and spend time assessing how woeful I am at lots of stuff to be honest.
However, when it comes to putting a Florida holiday into practice I am peerless, outstanding and just totally awesome in every way. I am Mkingdon….hear me roar!
From having no intentions or plans for a trip this year at lunchtime last Saturday, by close of play this Wednesday the whole thing was researched, booked and written down in a plan. I am the veritable well oiled machine in this regard, and believe me, my machine needs some oiling…..whatever that means.
I had spotted our flight last Saturday during my first search to be honest. It just had to wait for Louise’s holiday approval to happen before buttons could be pressed. It took almost all of Monday for that to happen, with a hilarious few moments of panic after Louise had told me I was OK to book, only then to be told a mistake had been made and she couldn’t have the holiday. Such fun. All was well, and she doesn’t have to stay at home with the dogs after all.
So as sense and tradition normally dictates, the flight is the first piece of the puzzle and that was slotted into place on Monday evening (ish)….work may read this! We are flying on August the 28th with Thomas Cook from Manchester. It’s an unusual one in that we don’t depart until 14.40. That means we don’t touch down until 7pm and the drive to the villa, already interesting with a toddler, Louise on her flight drugs and everyone else hot and tired, will be made more entertaining with it being dark, but we will be sat navved up as well as having my unerring sense of direction and years of Orlando driving experience. I bet it is raining too!
The benefit of that later departure is that we won’t need to be up at 3am to allow for female pre-airport readying. We will only need to be at the airport around 10am which is much more civilised. If Louise asks what time she needs to be ready, then it’s still 5am, OK?
Booking with only 140 days or so to go means that the seat selection was slim pickings and we are sitting nowhere of note in cattle class. Freddie will have his own seat though. He may be under two years old when we fly (by about eight weeks) but nobody deserves to have him on their knee for two eight-hour flights. The investment will be well worth the expense I am sure.
Price wise, we did OK. Kayak and similar sites were showing that flight as low as £330 but by the time you have added in your seat selection (I know you don’t need to, but with Freddie with us we need to be all together so that everyone else can pitch in to make sure I don’t get disturbed whilst watching my films), and something bigger than hand luggage it was another £100 on top of that, with a couple of hundred quid for Freddie’s ticket. Freddie having his own seat does of course mean he has full luggage allowance too which will come in handy. For direct flights in (late) August, anything in that price range is good enough.
I had to check with Thomas Cook before booking online as it wouldn’t let me buy a seat for Freddie if I entered his real date of birth. I had to make him a year older and then contact them afterwards to amend the booking. I didn’t do anything silly like phone them, their web chat worked a treat.
So that is the moment that we knew we were going and a little celebratory group chat ensued.
I had been browsing the endless stream of villas since the weekend. My main conclusion from this exercise was that someone needs to build a decent villa search website as the majority of them are absolute pants. Over the weekend and into Monday a shortlist emerged, and some quotes were requested for villas featured on sites where you can’t get a price without contacting someone. Is it 1997?
That whittled down the list a little further. Our requirements were important yet brief –
2 Master Suites
A decent pool
An OK location.
The latter was the one thing I knew we would probably need to compromise on with our lack of proper budget. I usually treat villa locations down the US27 or near Championsgate with unworthy derision as I really like the Formosa Gardens area but these more distant developments would all be acceptable for this trip.
The quotes bore out the wisdom of this as quotes for villas in those areas were significantly cheaper, either by coincidence or not, I’m not sure.
I couldn’t decide and bite the bullet to book. The main factors here are typically that you always think are just one more search away from the perfect villa and of course, it’s fun to be looking for one. So the villa was actually the last thing to get booked. Whilst that was percolating I did the other more simple things.
Car hire was pretty easy. We always tend to use USRentaCar (not an ad, but I am absolutely open to them paying me money to promote them). I did some due diligence by using the Travel Supermarket comparison thing but anything cheaper than my usual car hire place was for off airport pick up and/or from brands I have never heard of. So a seven-seater mini van was secured with a £50 deposit, at a price of £499 with all relevant insurances etc. We only ever have one driver as most of the party are too young and Louise is barely allowed to drive in the UK after her recent run of prangs and of course I love Diet Coke. We are using Alamo as it happens this time.
Now, I had absolutely no need to book theme park tickets at this stage, but with some super low deposit schemes knocking around, why not right? Disney put ticket prices up three times a week so best to strike whilst my iron is tepid. Again, a look around the internet confirmed pretty much everyone was within a few quid of each other for the 14 day ultimate, so with that knowledge, again I reverted to one of the places I’ve used a few times, Floridatix (just to say once more, if you are reading this and want to pay me money to promote you, hit me up…as the kids might say), as they offer a £10pp deposit thingy. These bookings were flowing like water at this stage. I was on fire.
So by close of play Tuesday, we were metaphorically well on our way. I was still waiting for a few villa quotes to come back, so I did a little more searching, but it was becoming clear that one was emerging as the best option for us. It ticked all of our boxes, the owner was very responsive, he had a Facebook page with what appear to be genuine reviews, I could see the address of the villa and do some basic online checks and overall it just felt right. He was the only owner to come back to me after quoting to see what I thought and if I was fixed up too.
This is the villa we are using this time.
It’s on Sandy Ridge which sounds like a problem that you may go to the clinic with, but it looks lovely, and we should be 25 minutes from WDW. Google maps tells me it is 22 minutes so with traffic that’s tolerable.
So with the exchange of a booking form and some cash, I was done before the end of Wednesday, even with taking my sweet time selecting a villa.
Of course, whilst doing all of this, I have drafted the first day by day plan and made a list of all the eateries we want to get to. Not bad whilst at the same time remaining vaguely competent at my proper job and project managing home improvements/disaster scenarios.
What became clear to me shortly after last week’s blog was that my sanctimonious gloating that we wouldn’t be stupid enough to do a WDW trip right when Galaxy’s Edge is opening was unwise as it now turns out it opens on our first full day in Florida. This just proves that my recent post on this subject was all bluster and distraction, trying to make me feel better about not having a trip planned for this year.
I have no idea how we will cope with that event and those crowds. I am trying to tell myself that this, along with Food & Wine, will spread the crowds out allowing us to easily get FastPasses for the stuff we couldn’t last time, namely Flights Of Passage and Slinky Dog. Our DHS days will need to be approached with suitably adjusted expectations. We will FastPass non Star Wars stuff and hope to just be able to wander around Galaxy’s Edge a bit, and ride something if we can.
This is a weird trip in that, in all of these years we have been going, we have never had a concrete plan to return the year after. We of course nearly always have but that was always something that was decided later. Knowing that we already have plans for 2020 for my 50th birthday trip, we can tell ourselves that it matters not if we miss something. We will indeed be back.
For fans of me pissing and moaning about our home improvements, normal service will return next week I’m sure. We are nearly done with just some blinds and furniture to arrive. It has broken me and if I have nothing else to write about next week it might break you too.
Till the next time…..