The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Three

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Three

As often happens, the number of folks who turn up to read this nonsense goes up quite a bit when a trip report happens. I’m grateful, but come on, where were you buggers when the rest of us had to endure the weekly grind of me papping on about each minor detail of this trip? I appreciate anyone who tolerates what I churn out here, I really do, but the real heroes are those that are here every week as I struggle to squeeze out 600 words on a failed FastPass booking and a bad commute to work. I salute you.

If you had been around for that, you’d know that the plan was carefully crafted, honed, perfected and laminated over many, many painful weeks. Today, as our third day dawned, I was sat in front of the rolling coverage of Dorian, with my plan in tatters and in need of being put back together. I had time to do so as I had been awake since 5am. At around 7am I made breakfasts for folks, put a wash on and re-engineered the plan all at the same time. If there had been a brush available it would have gone up my rear end to sweep as I went along.

The thinking at this stage from the experts on the telly was that Dorian would “hit” on Monday, some three days from now, and that day on the plan was Animal Kingdom. Today should have been a strategic rest day at a water park, to get us over the inevitable tiredness following the travel day and first-day adrenaline. So I moved that around and brought Animal Kingdom forward to today, thinking that we’d either be in a motel in Carolina or hiding in the bathtub come Monday.

I was making FastPass reservations whilst filling the dishwasher as everyone got themselves ready. As you can imagine, there was slim pickings available on the FastPass front at this late hour.

We left the house at 9.20am, took Sherberth Road and we were pleasingly in Giraffe 42 before too long at all. A tram was waiting just for us and it whisked us to the drop off point which again was still some considerable distance from the actual entrance.

We made our way up the paths and into the park…

Freddie is currently obsessed with Up! and so we were delighted to see Kevin wandering about as we entered.

It does make you wonder what Freddie makes of the whole thing. Having seen this character on his telly for months, to have it there, in front of him, must be weird. He, of course, took it in his stride with a smile and a wave.

Because our last-minute FastPasses were crap, we had nowhere to be immediately so we took the chance to do something we only do with no rides to get on. Or at least we did when the girls were little. We headed, for the first time in many years, to the boneyard.

First, Freddie was let loose in the playground part and did some sliding.

Then we took him over the bridge to the dig.

I said this at the time, but it was incredulous to me that it had been something like twenty years since I was watching the girls do the exact same thing.

It was a lovely half an hour or so watching Freddie fill his shorts with that thing they pass off as sand and then we moved out of the boneyard and Rebecca and Tom took Freddie on the Triceratop Spin.

As they boarded and we got ready to do the “grandparent wave” I bought a couple of tubs of popcorn as it had been many minutes since food passed my lips.

Freddie was looking very hot after his ride so we made our way into the nearest source of AC to cool him down a bit. That happened to be a shop and I left a good few dollars lighter having given in to his pleas for a plastic thing that produced bubbles. He shunned all other models in favour of the Ariel one. I understand that, as I too would choose an Ariel that blows.

We had a FastPass looming for It’s Tough To Be A Bug now, yep, that’s how slim our pickings were. As we arrived to find an unsurprising five-minute wait we took the chance for Freddie to meet two of his favourites, Russell and Doug.

On the way into the ride, I think we were all little concerned at how Freddie might take some of the effects, noises and darkness in this show. To that end, we made sure we were first into a row and of course moved all the way to the end so that should he not be too happy he could be easily taken out.

We needn’t have worried. It seems that this child was built specifically for theme park touring. He loved it all and did not flinch at even the most scary elements.

Lunch was very much on our minds now and as we made our way over to Pandora, at an inevitable restroom stop, I mobile ordered for everyone.

I have no real clue what everyone ended up with, but they looked like this and it all cost $120.

Everybody said their dish was tasty. and surprisingly filling. I had tried to get sangrias for Louise, Emily and Rebecca but had to sacrifice one of them as only I had photo ID and it’s a two per ID limit.

Naturally, a restroom visit followed and as we loitered for that to happen rain came along. Luckily, we managed to find a table with a huge brolly over it to sit it out. Throughout lunch, I had been watching the app to see what the wait times were, as Flights Of Passage had been loitering around the 60-minute mark all morning. Freddie had fallen asleep by now and as the rain continued the app showed the wait time drop from 75 minutes to 60. It was now or never. Rebecca, Tom and I decided to go for it. Emily didn’t feel like waiting for an hour as she wasn’t feeling great.

We left Freddie and an allocated amount of cash with Louise so that they could amuse themselves whilst we rode.

One of the drawbacks of riding stuff for the first time, or at least queuing for it, is that you have no concept of how long you have yet to go. In the end, the wait was more like 80 minutes, but, it was still worth it and that’s from someone who typically has a 20-minute wait limit.

I found the mid-queue Blue Man Group show a little disappointing to be honest.

Having been so frustrated not to get a FastPass for this, although I never mentioned that in the build-up to the trip, of course, I was chuffed that we got the chance to do it without a wait numbering many hours.

We exited and met up with Emily and Louise, full of tales of how good the ride is and we made our way over to Everest as I had managed to secure at least one decent FastPass for today. We set up baby swap with the cast member at the FastPass entrance and Louise and I sat out first with a now awake Freddie as the others rode. I took Freddie over to the wall where you can watch the ride coming down the big drop. He loved it. We played a game of “Ready Steady…Go” for each train as it cam down the drop. This is one of those moments that doesn’t involve a ride, an expensive meal or elaborate hotel but it’s one that I will remember for a long time. It was a lovely thing.

Louise and I then rode. Freddie may well have been at the same wall, watching us as we came down the drop but I was not in a fit state to do any sort of “grandparent wave” as I screamed like a big girl.

Next, we made our way over to the next Nemo show, with a stop for some ice cream on the way and Freddie’s first Mickey Premium Bar.

He made a right mess….just the way it should be.

As we waited for the show to open, he played with his Ariel bubble thing, attracting admirers from all around.

We took our seats in what, I’m sure, where exactly the same place as last year. Freddie did well with this one, with it keeping his attention almost all the way through. I too managed a similar effort. I like it, I do, but it’s no Lion King is it?

Restrooms next of course before heading over to Dinosaur. En route, we took advantage of there being no wait to take Freddie on Triceratops again, this time with me and Louise. There would be no “grandparent wave” this time.

Freddie enjoyed it almost as much I enjoyed riding with him.

Still ultimately heading to Dinosaur we were distracted by the Dance Party thing. Freddie wasn’t too sure about the characters at this stage of the trip, but with some encouragement, he got there.

Finally, we made it all the way to Dinosaur and this time Emily volunteered to stay with Freddie as she has been emotionally scarred by this ride since an early age and now, even at 24, refuses to ride it.

This was a walk-on and as we boarded we witnessed a mother encouraging her young son to get on and reassuring him that he’d be fine. If he’s anything like Emily he may never recover and still blame his parents at the age of 24.

It was 6pm by now and we decided to make a move for the exit so that we could go and eat before Freddie was too tired. The walkout to the exit was a leisurely one involving shops and restrooms and in one of those I picked up some bubble refill fluid for Freddie’s Ariel. I inserted fluid into Ariel whilst Louise was shopping, It serves her right.

We trammed back to the car in what was again incredible heat.

The plan was Applebees but we had to make a twenty-minute detour back to the villa so that the girls could pick up their IDs and a hoody. No, it’s fine honestly.

I programmed the sat nav for Applebees not wanting to take any risk of a further delay to food due to navigational incompetence. It turned out that the Applebees in our sat navs history was the one of the 27, which was considerably further away than the one I would have driven too unaided on the 192. It seemed to take an age to get there but at least we were seated immediately when we finally arrived.

That iPad thingy on the table was a Godsend for gadget-obsessed Freddie, keeping him occupied brilliantly whilst we ordered. Our server, a mixture of Dr Phil and Richard Dreyfuss, was great. He had a comedy routine he clearly rolled out for all his guests but he was funny, knowledgeable and most importantly fast.

Apparently, the trip for the IDs was insisted upon as the girls had remembered that it always seems to be 2 for 1 happy hour at Applebees.

We ordered appetisers of a combo platter plus pretzels and cheese sauce.

These pretzels deserve a photo all of their own, so good were they.

We had –

Me – Strawberry Salad (no, really….)

Louise – Chicken Alfredo

Emily – Alfredo without the chicken

Tom – Ribs

Rebecca – Quesadilla Burger

Freddie had pasta, some strawberries and yoghurt.

Tom managed three, yes, three chocolate milkshakes.

During the meal our server, Phil Dreyfuss, chatted to us about the incoming hurricane, mainly reassuring us that he doubted we’d get any major impact and we also watched with a mixture of disbelief and disdain as the table next to us managed to moan about everything until they got what they wanted which was their bill written off. I’m all for raising issues if you have them but their “problems” were petty much nonsense and they should never have a good meal in a restaurant again as recompense.

We were all too full for desserts and having paid the bill on the tablet thing on the table, it was about $180 but I didn’t make a note for some reason, we made our way to the car.

We had to call at the Publix next door for reasons I didn’t listen to or remember. Louise and Emily went in and the rest of us marvelled at the car next to us which seemed to be a tip on wheels.

After waiting longer than I would have liked, Louise and Emily returned and I drove us home. Full, tired and happy from what was another absolutely lovely day.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Two

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Two

This is what it’s all about. The months of planning, the dark, cold mornings when you drag your unwilling ass out of bed to get to work to pay for these trips and the endless waiting for the countdown to reach zero. The first day dawns like a glorious new era, with all that real-life crap behind you along with the exhausting travel day. The endless possibilities of your trip stretching out before you as your T-shirt fits you the best it will for the foreseeable future.

Despite all of that, waking at 3am as I did was a big fat nope. I managed to get back to sleep until a much more respectable 6.30 before venturing downstairs to make the first of many checks on Dorian’s path. It was still a good few days away but that didn’t stop the TV from having 24-hour rolling coverage.

I showered and waited for others to appear. Freddie was soon ready to go.

and at a decent effort of 7.45am we were out of the door. Having failed at the whole supermarket thing last night, the cupboards were literally bare so we needed feeding and quick.

I had spotted a McDonalds on the way in last night and that was selected by me, without any consultation with anyone else, as it would be quick and not delay our arrival at Magic Kingdom any more than absolutely necessary.

We decided to eat inside and despite having to wipe our own table and order our own food on the big screen thing, it hit the spot. Look at how sunny it was and how it made the photos I took so great.

There were all sorts of sugar and salt-based goodies consumed in short order for the princely sum of $32. It would be the cheapest meal we would consume all holiday.

Not that I was keeping a track of time like some anal time-obsessed idiot, but we left McDonalds at 8.32am and arrived at the gates to Magic Kingdom at 8.50.

Not those gates….

These…

We paid the $25 for parking. Now, you know I am willing to gift Disney all of my money all of the time, but I have to say the parking fee is getting a little silly now. I know we are off-site scum who don’t hold an annual pass, and those are some ways to avoid it, but that is a high fee. Still, it could have been worse. We could have been one of those “characters” who sing to the cast member because they heard it can get them free parking. Just stop it!

We parked in Simba 117 and walked the inevitable walk from the very bottom of the row to the tram.

Getting six bodies and a stroller onto the tram isn’t easy, but by the end of this holiday, we could do it with our eyes closed.

Due to ongoing work, the tram doesn’t take you all the way in currently. It stops just outside of Tampa and you have to walk in the rest of the way.

At this point, some families may have a debate about how to get across the water to the park itself. Not on day one you don’t. Every second counts and anyone suggesting the ferry will be sleeping with the fishes.

There was a torturous wait as Rebecca took Freddie for a nappy change and I hid my burning desire to get into the park quite well I thought.

I mentioned in the previous day that I had abandoned the traditional bright white trainer for a more conservative black pair. To ensure that our party would continue to bring down aircraft with their footwear, both Emily and Louise had taken up the mantle.

We boarded the monorail, all craning our necks for that all-important first glimpse of the castle.

It is difficult for someone like me, with my weak grasp of writing, to express how this time and journey feels. You’ll know if you’ve done it I think. It goes without saying that I would sacrifice most of my major organs (not that one!) to be back in this moment.

Finally….finally….after a journey both real and metaphorical, we arrive at the turnstiles. We start to scan bands and fingers, mere moments from the first walk up Main Street. Wait, what? Emily is having problems. The cast member raises their hand so another one in a different uniform is summoned. Much scanning of bands, clicking of iPads and typing of stuff happens. I even get my photo taken for reasons I don’t understand. All that matters is that finally we are released into the Magic. Apparently, the issue was caused by Emily having her own My Disney Experience account, yet her ticket was linked to mine. That whole linking thing is more complex than Brexit.

Having realised that she had forgotten her magic band halfway to Manchester airport, Emily needed to get herself a new one. We did so in the very first shop we came across after doing a quick Facebook live of our first fateful steps in the park.

I have tried to embed that video here. It’s on Facebook so it may not work for some or all of you. To see it, I guess you’d need to Like the Mkingdon Facebook page, but frankly, if you haven’t done that already, it serves you right.

We linked the band up there and then in the shop and carried on up through the shops on our way to Pirates. We were very much soaking in every aspect of the park as if we’d never set foot in it before. This is a special time.

It was hot and sticky already, so Tom and Freddie took the welcome water of the camel.

Pirates had a fifteen-minute wait posted but it was a walk-on as you’d expect at this time. We don’t tend to use the Memory Maker as we should so I feel compelled to inflict the ride photo on you to feel that I am getting some value from it, despite getting it for “free”.

As you can see, Rebecca had already purchased her bride ears ready for next year. Tom said he’d wait! 🙂

Freddie loved the ride, especially the small drop and the bit where we all got splashed with a cannonball. I know it doesn’t particularly look like it on the photo but the joy of the first ride stayed with us as we left it, and waited for Rebecca to restroom. I collected the stroller and we all moved on to Big Thunder and our first FastPass.

As Freddie’s body clock was adjusting he was now in this state….

so Louise volunteered to sit out with him and she got us all some drinks for after our ride. After the wildest ride in the wilderness, we were headed to Haunted Mansion, but in a spectacular bit of unco-ordinated restrooming, Louise desperately needed to pay a visit. Rebecca, Tom and Emily set off for the Mansion whilst Lousie transferred Ryan, Freddie and other bits and bobs to me. Louise headed off and I set off to catch up with the others.

We were too early for our FastPass but the standby queue was short so I said that I would stay with Freddie whilst the others rode. I wrote up my notes so far, and waited for Louise to bear down and then catch up. After a while, I went to message her to find out where she was only to realise that she had left her phone in Ryan, so that wasn’t going to work. After several minutes of waiting, I got a bit bored, and that’s usually a recipe for trouble…for Louise.

I opened up her phone and did some mischief. Just for clarity, ICE1, is Louise. She is, and I advise you all to do the same, stored as my “In Case Of Emergency” (ICE) in my phone.

I took most joy from the fact that for the ten minutes that Emily, Tom and Rebecca were on the ride they really thought Louise had sent those messages. It’s the small things……

Louise, of course, found it absolutely hilarious as she openly displayed by rolling her eyes and looking at me with disdain and pity once she was reunited with her phone.

Once we were all back together, guess what we did? Yes, we stopped at the Tangled restrooms. Of course we did.

At one of these toilet stops I’m sure I will actually use a restroom at some point.

With Freddie still sleeping we decided to take the opportunity for a snack, which after a quick analysis of where we were and what was on offer, turned into an early lunch at Pinocchio’s Haus thing. We sat outside and I mobile ordered. It’s much easier to do that with a larger group, as every time we all stand at the till staring up at the menu trying to order in real-time, someone or something gets missed.

Once we’d collected the food we sat inside as the concrete was melting outside.

Tom – Nuggets

Rebecca & Freddie – Pasta Marinara

Me – Chicken Parm Burger

Emily – Flatbread

Louise – Bread Sticks as she wasn’t that hungry.

With slushes and sodas all round it was $94.

Naturally, a restroom was required after eating after which we headed out into the now incredible heat and the Carousel.

There was no wait and Freddie absolutely loved it, mastering the “wave at the grandparents” thing like a natural.

Philharmagic next.

Again, Freddie loved it despite not getting on too well with the 3D glasses.

It’s A Small World had a ten-minute standby and offered an escape from the heat so we did that next. This was right up there in the Freddie appreciation charts. He absolutely loved it. Again, I did a Facebook live here and I’ll try to put it here…..

Completing the set of Fantasyland stuff, our FastPass for Pete Pan was due. It’s as if all this had been planned.

As we left the ride, having now used all of our FastPasses, I booted up the app and made another for Barnstormer later that day, so Freddie could ride his first coaster.

As we had done much more restrooming than eating today I tried to remedy that now with some ice cream. We went to Friar’s Nook and got some very tasty stuff.

I won’t name any names, but some members of the group said they “didn’t want any ice cream” but then somehow ate a large proportion of said ice cream once they had tasted it.

That Key Lime stuff that I bought, but Emily seems to be eating, was absolutely delicious. I patted myself on the back for managing to capture such a flattering photo of Louise there.

It was parade time now, and we just managed to catch some of it after walking through the castle and onto one of the ramps leading down to Main Street. It was a great last-minute view and the five minutes of rain that we had at the time was not unpleasant and quite welcome.

It was Barnstormer time now. As we arrived we offered up Freddie for the measuring stick. We knew it would be close, and it took an excruciating few moments for the cast member to reach their verdict. He could get his finger between the top of Freddie’s head and the stick and therefore he couldn’t ride. We were mildly disappointed, but do not give up hope dear reader, that part of the story does not end there.

I cancelled the FastPass and booked Buzz instead. In the meantime, we had a sit-down, a restroom of course and Freddie and Tom played in the water for a bit.

I have always said that there is no “good age” to take kids to WDW. Take them as soon as you can afford to do so and as often as you can….always. Seeing the day that Freddie was having today and would continue to have throughout the holiday, I will wrestle anyone who disagrees.

I took the chance to take some pictures of the progress being made on Tron. It is HUGE and promises to be a significant addition to the park.

As another piece of planning genius unfolded before our very eyes, our Buzz FastPass was now ready so we made our way over there. I do think it unkind of Disney to take photos of folks when they are concentrating on beating their family at shooting targets.

Oh and due to an error on my part, where I scanned the wrong button, we seem to have a photo of a random couple on our account. Say hello!

It is both cool and a little tragic that I turn my cap around so that it does not impede my vision…..

and look at this classic……

Louise sat out in the sun for this one avoiding photographic shaming.

We were done at this point and we headed out to the car via tram and monorail. Tom and I dropped the ladies at the villa so they could begin the getting ready and we went to the Publix that we found closed last night. $220 later, we had a full trunk and soon a full fridge back at the villa.

After showers for all and some waiting for the males, we headed out for Outback at Formosa Gardens. Freddie was a little tired, as you can see….

but he did brilliantly as we ordered and ate.

He watched some Wallace and Gromit on his Dad’s phone and was even entrusted with the camera as a distraction for a while….

We had the customary Bloomin’ Onion….

Then….

Louise – Garlic Medallions of Steak

Rebecca – Sirlion (half-eaten)

Emily – A cheesy pasta thing, being the only Veggie option.

Freddie – Nuggets

I had a lovely steak and shrimp thing, but forgot to photograph it. I get better at this. It was our first night, forgive me.

Tom – An Quesadilla burger which escaped the camera also.

It was all very, very delicious. The bill with a 20% tip, was $178.

We barely managed it home awake. Bed at 10. That, my friends, is a very good effort at an excellent first day. We had a blast.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day One

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day One

One of the greatest challenges in documenting one of these trips is the first day. Here I sit, still a bit jet lagged, the horrors of work on my mind, trying desperately to re-capture the excitement and anticipation I can see in the photos from our travel day. The two moods could not be more removed from each other.

Our travel day starts early these days. With Rebecca not at home we have to do the door photos the night before. It does warm my heart a little that it is the girls asking days before when and how we are all getting together to get them done. It is not just my sad tradition, it is theirs too.

This report starts even earlier than that this time. You find me at my desk on my final afternoon. I am tolerating the back to back meetings that have somehow invaded my diary and counting down to the the time I can leave without being formally disciplined when a text arrived on my phone. Oh good, I can now check in for our flights.

I follow the link and start clicking stuff. Now, my track record with online check in is not good for some reason. It never seems to go smoothly. Anyway, I am moving through the various pages with my natural silky grace and one more click will see us all sorted.

An error appears. That’s odd. I do not make mistakes, so surely this pesky website is playing up. Looking in more detail the error relates to Emily and it tells me to check her status on the ESTA website.

The faint stirrings of nausea appear deep within my gut. I do as advised. Luckily, I have a photo of her passport stored on my laptop so I have all I need to confirm that her ESTA is fine. My hands are shaking a little as I type in her details, mainly as the new red warning message across the top of the ESTA site reminds me that it can take 72 hours to get approval.

So, it turns out she has no valid ESTA. My mind wildly searches for a reason for this, but the only one it can come up with is that I am an absolute idiot. I remember distinctly sitting at my laptop many weeks ago getting everyone’s ESTA either renewed or checked. I had a stack of passports and I worked through each one methodically.

Anyway, finding someone else to blame for this was a job for later. Right now, I had to apply and quickly. With my hands shaking a little more, I somehow got the application done as quickly as possible. As expected, Authorization (sic) was pending. I sat refreshing the page for a bit, but nothing changed.

At this point I called Louise to confess my incompetence. Next I called Emily to confess the same and without saying it out loud, letting her know that she may not be travelling with us. She took it calmly and in her stride which just about stopped me from jumping from the window ledge I was stood on. An hour passed, and panic was setting in and I started googling stuff about recent time frames for ESTA approval. Nothing gave me any comfort, and despite knowing it was very unlikely to make a difference I called the number on the ESTA site. I sat on hold for twenty minutes whilst still refreshing the page constantly.

Whilst doing that I even checked out flight times over the coming days just in case the worst happened and she wouldn’t be able to fly with us.

To draw a veil over the horrors of this afternoon, at 4.35pm, a desperate push of F5 refreshed the ESTA site one more time and, thankfully, the status changed to Authorized. I haven’t felt relief like it since her conception.

Now, you will know that I am a dedicated planner and have been until this point a fastidious, organised type. I could never imagine that I would be incompetent enough to let this happen. Clearly I am that incompetent, as I will prove to you in other mistakes I will document here over the coming weeks. Senility is arriving early. But do please take my failings as a warning to check and double check everything one last time. I can ony think that Emily’s passport was stored in her room and when I gathered them all together I couldn’t count properly and didn’t do hers. As I said, incompetent.

So, with that over with, and I am sweating slightly again just recounting it, we shall proceed with those traditional door photos.

If I had been sensible I may have got the camera out before now to remind myself how it works. Like most of you, my phone is my camera at every other time than a WDW trip so getting to grips with my very nice Canon G7X takes a little time. All of that is an excuse for these being a bit blurry.

They got a bit better as we went along….

Well some did….

Now would be a good time to warn you. There are going to be a lot of photos of Freddie in this trip report. It’s natural of course but it’s best I tell you now.

Now we get into the different configurations….

and a more traditional door photo….

So with that done, we ate our takeaway, finished the packing and all went to bed.

Online check in still wouldn’t work for Emily, so that was one last minor issue we would need to address at the airport. A small price to pay for my stupidity. I had felt panic stricken and on edge all evening to be honest, convinced I had made some other error and it was hard to relax into the holiday feeling.

That no doubt contributed to me being awake from 3am. I rose at 7am for the traditional three S’s, tidied up a bit, put the bins out and got the final bits into the cases and wrestled them downstairs. The taxi arrived early at 8.20. We were ready and after a tearful goodbye to the dogs we loaded ourselves and the cases into the van, with me still questioning what I had forgotten.

We collected Rebecca, Tom and Freddie five minutes later and made our way slowly to the airport with me doing the “you been busy?” thing with the driver as I had to sit up front.

We arrived at 9.20 and made our way to desks 14-24. We were approached by a chap offering us an upgrade. Alas, it was not a free one, and another £800 for the move to Premium Economy could not be justified, especially as I had already, unbeknownst to the rest of the party, paid for extra leg room seats in economy.

Emily’s check in was trouble free and it was a nice feeling to have her boarding pass in my hands.

Security was dreadful. As we had a pram with us we were directed to the Assistance Lane. There wasn’t any assistance that I noticed, but there was a whole heap of waiting. It wasn’t helped by the family in front of us having what appeared to the their weekly food shop in their hand luggage. After about half an hour we finally got through and feeling hangry, we moved through into the departure lounge. Our direct route to food was only interrupted as several of the females needed the rest room.

Freddie made good use of the time.

A bee line was made for Giraffe, our usual Terminal 1 eatery and there was no wait to be seated. The choosing of food was a serious business.

We had…..

Me and Tom – Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich

Louise – (A quite poor) Eggs Benedict

Emily – Veggie Breakfast Sandwich

I failed to capture this but it looked like the sandwich Tom and I had.

Rebecca – Some Mexican themed breakfast thing

Freddie – A generic kid’s breakfast

Coffee and juice for all and it came to £90 including a tip.

Having only just waited outside a restroom mere moments ago, we had to do so again as my daughters laid some cable. With that done, we wandered some shops, I bought a book from Smiths and then we found ourselves a seat to wait for the gate to open. I think even I had a wee at this point. I am only human.

As I did, I wondered, as I often do, what it is that makes men need to dredge up a pint of phlegm as they take a leak at the urinal. The two functions are not connected. Why do I have to have a wee whilst listening to my fellow urinators pulling up bodily fluids from their toes before expectorating it into the piss pot. Come on fellas, sort it out!

We explored the totally authentic UK/Manchester themed area of duty free too.

Yet more restrooming was done as we made our way to gate 27. As ever, there was a long queue which we ignored and just waited until most folks had got on. Inexplicably, Rebecca and Louise needed to restroom again. Is there a doctor in the house? They took just long enough to make me a little worried that the gate would close with us still on UK soil and some heated messages were exchanged before they reappeared.

We boarded and settled in for the flight which was announced as taking nine hours.

Our extra leg room was welcome and looked like this. You will see that I denounced the usual bright white trainers, but fear not, the tradition was not abandoned. More on that later.

As ever, we did not take off at the intended time, instead we left the UK at 3.07, some twenty minutes behind schedule. Drinks and entertainment upgrades were purchased. These not being free is the main difference between Thomas Cook and Virgin in my mind. The available film choice was pretty poor to be honest with few that hadn’t been out for an age. I found Vice and watched that with a few breaks for entertaining Freddie and food, which was chicken pasta or beef stroganof.

At some point, clearly Freddie got his hands on the camera…..

Only the appearance of the ice cream got him back settled in his seat and watching something again.

Freddie was great to be fair on what felt like a very long flight. It was made to feel even longer and more arduous as the woman sat behind Rebecca coughed for 8 hours and 50 minutes of the nine, without once covering her mouth. It was a nasty, “I’ve worked down a coal mine for thirty years” lung wrenching, phlegm factory of a cough that promised to infect most of the plane with whatever she had.

To prove that fact, I developed a runny nose almost immediately and spent a lot of the flight blowing my conk in the toilets, which isn’t a euphemism.

Freddie was tired but wouldn’t sleep so I took him for a walk around the cabin once everything had been served, sold and collected. I spent the rest of the flight watching Big Bang Theories I had already seen and blowing my nose. A sandwich and some cake was served around 10.30pm UK time and the desperation to get there was not eased by that offering.

Our descent took about 45 minutes and we landed at 7.04pm Orlando time. We taxied to the gate by 7.20. We were sat in row two which had me excited about being the first off the plane. Knowing that, the ground staff attached the tube to the middle door instead and we were off behind most other passengers which would prove to be troublesome. I say it every year, but MCO is a mess for arrivals.

Firstly, immigration was horrendous. We had arrived just behind what appeared to be a fight of 3500 Brazilians. We waited for 80, yes, 80 minutes to get processed. Poor Tom had to hold a now sleeping Freddie in his arms for the entire time. Louise was having hot sweats as despite all of her previous restroom visits, there was now a chocolate hostage fighting to be released.

Not surprisngly, our bags were waiting for us when we finally got through. We collected those whilst Louise sprinted for the restroom.

The next parts of moving through Orlando airport also contribute to my view that it is a mess. The whole double bag drop thing is silly, and we always choose to just take them with us, but that involves escalators and/or an elevator before you even get to the monorail.

With a light sweat on, Buddy the Mayor greeted us and we finally made our way to the bit where you walk for miles again, before more elevator nonsense to get down to the car hire bit.

Having been reunited with his pram, Freddie made full use.

There was no queue at all at the Dollar desk and I was in and out like a teenager’s first time. They tried the upgrade thing, the extra insurance thing, the toll pass thing and the sat nav thing. I brushed them all aside and rejoined the group, now on a mission to get to the bloody villa.

We had been directed to row 2 to choose our mini van. My tired brain was confused by the fact that row 2 seemed to only contain SUVs until a staff member pointed out the mini vans were about five minutes walk down that row. What’s another bit of walking at this stage?

We spent a few minutes trying to choose the best van available but gave up and just chose the one we were stood next to. The cases and pram were jammed in badly and we were off. Tom programmed the sat nav and with only one minor detour, as I took a wrong exit somehwere along the 528, after a long, dark and rainy journey we made it to Sandy Ridge. Wait, no, I took a turn earlier than I needed and we were still a few hundred yards away. A quick turn around, and a bit of swearing and we were now on the right development at least.

Now if someone can explain to me why the villas are numbered in a random order that would be great. We were in 206, so obviously next door would be 196 yes? I mean….

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This caused another U turn and some more swearing before the van was more abandoned than parked on the drive and we started dragging the cases in.

Louise found a letter for us from the management company telling us that Hurricane Dorian was definitely going to completely ruin our entire trip. OK, in my tired state I may have over reacted, but the letter was written in a way that pretty much said we would either need to evacuate or spend two weeks in the bath tub. My mood was not a positive one.

Add to that, my dissapointment that the villa seemed to be less than we were expecting. I spent a decent amount of time looking for a cheap (we weren’t supposed to be going remember?) villa with two en suite masters, sacrificing location to get that within our budget. At first glance, the two main bedrooms, whilst being en suite had, at best, Queen beds. Rightly or wrongly, when someone advertises two master suites, I would expect at least King size beds.

As Tom and I headed to the supermarket for supplies, I was, I have to admit, feeling a little downbeat. With the hovering threat of a holiday ruining hurricane and me seemingly having dropped another bollock with the villa selection I was not as upbeat as anyone should be at this point of a trip.

This was compounded by the fact that the nearby Publix closed at 10pm and it was now 10.40, so we had to go across to the WaWa petrol station to grab some milk and cereal for Freddie’s breakfast.

Defeated and deflated we got back to the villa and fell into bed around midnight.

Maybe it is my advancing years but this travel day is a real endurance test. It involved almost 24 hours of being awake, endless queues, waiting, dragging of luggage and frustrations. You may be hoping that things improve or this trip report might not be very much fun. Well, I have to report as I find, but don’t worry, you are, over the coming weeks about to join us on one of our most enjoyable trips. Whether I can write about it in a way that you’ll enjoy cannot be guaranteed though!

Till the next time…….