Going, Going, We Keep On Going…

With another trip done and written up, what the hell do I write about now? Hmmm…

Well, I like to plan, you know that, and I am fairly good at it, but where I find myself now, with the perfect synchronisation of the end of my latest trip report last Sunday, leaving just one Sunday free for a blog post to confess to you all that we are going again, was pure luck.

Yep, we fly out to Orlando again on Tuesday. We booked in late February and timing it perfectly, as far as these Sunday ramblings go, I unconsciously left myself the perfect one-week window to allow you all to collectively eye-roll at the news.

We really didn’t mean to go. I don’t mean that I fell over and landed on my keyboard, pressing several “Book It” buttons all at once. It was less accidental than that, but not by much.

As we returned from the trip you’ve just read about we had some tentative, back-of-the-mind intentions to maybe go on holiday, maybe to Orlando, maybe not, just Louise and I, around September time, but there was no planning going on.

For those who actually read this stuff and pay attention, you may remember that Rebecca, Tom and the boys had booked to go this April, but for boring real-world reasons, they had to postpone/cancel that trip. Well, we got chatting and the idea of all going together (alas Emily had used all her holiday entitlement on other trips with her boyfriend) at some point came up. Initially, as we often do we looked at non-US destinations. As ever, we inevitably drifted back to Florida due to its familiarity and the guarantee of it suiting us and particularly the boys.

We started looking for Florida trips at the end of August into September and spent many minutes laughing at the prices. When did the prices for school holidays become so ludicrous? We went for years at the end of August and we were skint! Hmm, maybe that’s why we were skint.

We then started to work our way back through the summer, trying to find dates that would work for everyone. To cut a very long story short, we had limited options and it ended up being May.

To be honest, May was probably too early for us, and certainly too early for Louise and another trip to WDW, but the carrot of being able to go with Rebecca, Tom and the boys and to see Freddie and Dougie experience Florida overcame all sticks easily.

The compromise was that Louise insisted that we spend a week at a beach. This kicked off the most complex trip I have ever organised, as a week at the beach wouldn’t suit a five-year-old and one-year-old, so I began the process of planning multiple itineraries within one holiday.

Flight-wise, the lowest cost was the order of the day, so Aer Lingus won this time and we are all in economy on the 16th of May. As we have a lap sitter in our party in Dougie, I was unable to book our seats online, but their WhatsApp service was excellent and that was sorted in minutes.

The basic plan was to get a villa for most of the stay, but Louise and I would go off to the beach for a week, with Rebecca and the crew joining us there for a night or two, before they would return to Orlando for theme parking. Alas, our favourite villa was not available for our dates, so we chose what we hope is the next best thing from Airbnb.

In a strange and not to be repeated turn of events Louise chose our accommodation at the beach. I had wanted to go to Vero but hens have more teeth than they had availability, so we opted for a previous destination in Daytona, and Louise did five minutes of searching and informed me we would be staying at the Hard Rock there. Rebecca, Tom and the boys would join us for a couple of days at the beach and then return to Orlando and the villa.

Then, to finish off the trip, and to use up the three-day park passes still owed to us by Hurricane Ian, we booked to stay at our usual place, Royal Pacific at Universal.

I secured us a mini-van and would later return to the issue of how Louise and I would get back from Daytona to Orlando as Rebecca and Tom would be taking our main car back to Orlando with them.

It was about a week after sorting all this, (which I have massively over-simplified above by the way, please show some respect for my planning skills), that Louise and I chatted and thought we should invite my Mum along. Clearly, the complexity of the trip was not sufficient to test my planning expertise.

Mum took a little convincing, unsure about undertaking her first trip without my Dad, but was soon on board when we asked her what Dad would have said! It’s been a while since she has been to Florida and for her and let’s face it for all of us, who knows when that trip might be your last. They are physically demanding so making hay in the sunshine is important.

So I then went about adding Mum to the flight and messaging Aer Lingus to change all our seats again from two sets of three to a four and two, booking her a room at Daytona (she will come with us to the beach) and finally adding her onto our room at Royal Pacific. We will share for the few nights we are there to avoid huge expense.

Park tickets and then of course park reservations were bought and made for all.

One of the most complex issues now presented itself. The car.

With seven people now on the trip and with car seats and strollers and oodles of luggage, the standard seven-seater van we had reserved would not cut the mustard. With every seat taken, there was just no way we would fit all that into the thing. That kicked off a ridiculous amount of time looking at alternatives, some of which would involve me getting my HGV licence, but the answer was presented by Rebecca, who suggested I look at what car we got the last time we had 7 people on the trip.

Finally, I found a use for my obsessive trip reporting and went back to that trip and found the make and model of what we had. On that trip, we also had a stroller and all that goes with a small child so we could be fairly sure it would all fit.

Of course, none of the main car hire sites listed this 8-seater Toyota Sienna, so I reached out to Andy at Discount Florida Car Hire, who I had booked with and explained our predicament. He was incredibly helpful and located one and secured it for us via Dollar. What an 80’s pop duo are doing in the hire car business I do not know.

Hopefully, we are all sorted now as I didn’t fancy driving a 12 or 15-seater thing, especially as Tom would be driving it around for a week during his first time driving in Florida.

I have even booked the three beachgoers a car for a few days in Daytona, crucially giving us a means by which we can drive back to Orlando. For our first two days in Daytona, we will all be together with Rebecca, Tom and the boys then driving back to Orlando at the end of day two, after watching the baseball, which we have always enjoyed in the past. Once the three of us are done with Daytona a few days later, we will drive back to Orlando, drop our hire car at the WDW car centre and have Tom pick us up before heading to check in at Universal.

So, I think that’s everything?? Still with me? Complicated isn’t it?

If anyone still has any appetite whatsoever for another bloody trip report, and even I barely do, I’ll be back here in June popping another one out. I can only apologise.

As ever, the Mkingdon Facebook page is your source of any live updates during the trip and I’ll see you back here in June if you can stomach any more of the same old guff.

Till the next time……

The Coats, Boats and Little Scrotes Tour 2023 – Day Fifteen Monday 23rd January

Monday 23rd January

So here we are, another travel day back to the UK after what had been a lovely couple of weeks with some new experiences, plenty of memories and emotions and of course a few more pounds than we arrived with accompanying us home.

To start the very long and tiring journey right, I had a crap night’s sleep. Too much food, eaten far too late and my middle-aged body punished me accordingly. I was awake for good at 6. We chatted to Rebecca for a bit and at around 7 we started to (literally) get our shit together. There were showers and endless packing with a nice sprinkle of sadness thrown in.

When we were nearly done I went out onto our balcony to soak in the view for one last time. I genuinely got angry at those folks breezily going about their day when we had to go home. I was envious of them being able to stay when I could not. Having indulged my inner toddler for a few minutes I went back inside, crammed the last few things into a bag of some description and bang on 10am we left the room. Have I mentioned that I was sad?

I walked out to the car and drove it back to the entrance to load people and cases into it. We were Disney Springs bound for the traditional last-day panic buy of gifts that we had nowhere to put. Fortunes were spent, mainly in the World of Disney. My mood when making my notes (whilst sitting at the gate in a few hours from now) was bleak and therefore detail is scant.

We were done by 11.30 and after a fuel stop on the way, we made it to The Cheesecake Factory for our farewell, overeating bonanza. We had not booked and there was no wait as it was midday on a Monday.

As we settled in preparing to order our Nachos, our server delivered news more devastating than our impending return to the UK. A broiler was broken and this meant several dishes were not available. This included our beloved Nachos. Tears were shed, furniture thrown across the restaurant and violence brought upon those responsible.

Once the dust had settled we ordered alternatives, which to be fair, were excellent.

I had the egg roll sampler

It was probably one of the nicest things I had all trip.

Emily – Macaroni Cheese Balls with fries.

Louise – Quesadillas and fries.

We all forced a cheesecake down, but my notes are so poor for today (that always seems to be the case for the travel home day) I did not note what each one was.

Louise had a couple of wines and the bill came to $140. We were still sad but now full, which marginally improved the situation. I say marginally, as I cannot remember feeling so sad to return home, but that was probably more a memory thing.

It was a little early to be heading to the airport so we just sat in the car for half an hour in the car park feeling overly full and whistful.

Eventually, we drove to MCO, and did a painless car drop (I was very sad to let that car go, I loved it). Check-in was very quiet, swift and incident free followed by the exact opposite at security as ever. Forty minutes to get through there before we could monorail out to gate 83. We sat and waited and I visited the shop as I needed a pen and something to read. The only pen in the shop was $20 so that was a nice kick in the nuts to round the day off nicely. We got some drinks, waited some more and then boarded.

At that point, my notes stop and I have zero recollection of the flight home. I think I may have slept for a decent chunk of it, but it did not make the re-entry into normality any less horrific.

We were soon home, and happy to see the various animals again.

Returning to the UK is rarely a good thing after a Florida trip. Doing so in January, to the bleak mid-winter horrors of the weather does not help.

The trip was a good one with many firsts. I thought Caribbean Beach was great and the Skyliner a marvel. I just wish we could have used it more. I would stay there again for sure.

The parks this January were much better than the previous one. Things were still busy and our greatest frustrations seemed to centre around Hollywood Studios which seems impenetrable without Genie+. All the other parks were OK, putting aside the absolute insult of having to pay extra for Genie+ of course. Things seem to be settling a little and maybe the pent-up demand post Covid is running out of steam now. Either that or the extra costs and the state of the world’s economy are just now starting to curtail visitor numbers.

I seem to have created an impression that we disliked the cruise. This could not be further from the truth. We were often in awe at the experience (including the alcohol expenditure!) and our lack of research and abundance of ignorance saw us fall foul of a few beginner’s pitfalls. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and took away some valuable learnings should we ever do one again.

So the latest in a flurry of recent trips comes to an end. Who knows when we may return? 🙂

Thanks as ever for reading along. I am increasingly amazed that you still do and it is appreciated.

Till the next time……