Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day One 29th August 2018

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day One 29th August 2018

I’m tired, jet lagged, and dreading work tomorrow. What better frame of mind could I be in to start writing this thing? Well, I could also be sad that I’m back in the UK, and somehow as the wheels hit the tarmac at Manchester I could have instantly developed a life threatening cold.

Sitting here now, a little weary and down beat for various reasons, looking back at my notes from the start of the trip just gone, I have to say I am not looking forward to recounting the untold joy, optimism and excitement of the start of a WDW trip. It is a necessary evil so it is time to stop moaning and get on with it.

The evening before our trip began, I noted that things were very busy and stressful. We had a million things to do, parents to see, takeaways to order and eat as well as last minute packing and seemingly never ending chores to complete before we were allowed to leave the country. As we wouldn’t all be at our house in the morning, I had to take this chance to take some traditional photos. Rebecca wasn’t very impressed as she had her rollers in and her dressing gown on, but a tradition is a tradition and she had to suck it up.

Then, a new tradition, with Freddie’s first by the door photo.

and Tom’s…

Somehow, we got through everything we needed to do, and I think I got to bed around midnight, honestly looking forward to the 4am alarm I had set going off.

Somehow I was awake before it went off, probably due to others already being up. Upon picking my phone up to turn the impending alarm off, I saw that I had a text. It was from Virgin. They regretted that there was to be an hours delay to our flight. Not as much as I regretted not knowing that before I went to sleep. It could have meant an extra hour in bed had I had chance to delay the taxi pick up. Ah well, showers were had, cases crammed full, weighed then opened again and things were re-arranged into other cases, and then weighed again until we were fairly confident that all of them might be under 24kg.

The taxi arrived a few minutes early, a rushed goodbye was said to the dogs and finally after all this waiting, we were off. The loading of the taxi was a rush and a bit of a panic, and I spent the journey to Rebecca and Tom’s wondering what I’d forgotten. It turns out that was my hoodie, which sat in my wardrobe. Balls.

Rebecca, Tom and Freddie were ready and waiting to go as we pulled up, and we added their luggage to the groaning pile already in the back of the van. It was a tight squeeze and on the assumption that our mini van I’d hired would be smaller than the bus we were currently in I was quite concerned for our ability to get all the luggage from Orlando airport to the villa.

Being so bloody early the journey to the airport was a quiet one. There was some chatter in the back, but I was sat next to the driver and thankfully he was wasn’t a talker so I could sit in the uncomfortable silence in peace. We arrived at 6.10 and took the lift up to departures to endure a horrific five minute queue to drop our luggage off.

 

Two of our cases were just over the 24kg limit despite our best efforts but the kind lady in the ill fitting Virgin uniform “waived” the charge that should have been levied against us. The car seat had to be taken to a special drop off point at the other end of departures and once we’d done that we were free to head through security, up another level which needed another lift. Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and the pram (it will be a stroller as soon as we land state side!) were diverted through the fast track lane and I made a mental note to ensure that Emily would be in a pram the next time we come. The rest of us endured the normal route and we all got through within a few minutes. Louise was searched as usual.

We weaved our way, Ikea style through the absurd collection of poncy displays and arty photos that are meant to flog perfumes and headed for food. Frankie and Bennys seated us immediately and then ignored us for about ten minutes.

Freddie had his food at the ready so he cracked on anyway.

The rest of us waited for our order to be taken.

Me and Tom – Eggs Benedict, which was to be the smallest plate of food we would see for the next two weeks.

Emily – Nutella and Banana Thing

Louise & Mikey – A Big One

Rebecca – A fry up of some sort

Some toast was ordered for Freddie so that he didn’t feel left out.

With coffees and juices for most, (two drinks each? well we are on holiday!) the bill was £90.

We strolled duty free for far too long, and lost Louise and Mikey who snuck off to the loo without telling anyone. Emily got some sunglasses, and crucially, Louise bought very little. We found some seats and rested for a while before finding a bar in which I could have a £27 diet coke. Technically, there were seven drinks purchased, but you know what I mean.

I took the chance to release the chocolate hostage on UK soil, so that wouldn’t be needed later in the confines of the plane toilet. With that task complete, gate 210 was located and we sat and watched folks queue up for ages to board and take the seat they had reserved.

It was about fifteen minutes until we boarded and made our way up to the bubble. As we were settling in a stewardess (is that what they are called nowadays?) told us that there were a number of empty seats on the flight so if we wanted to use some of them after take off it would give us more room for Freddie.

We took off at 11.30 which Louise enjoyed as much as she always does. We were up to altitude quickly and the seat belt signs were off. Within three seconds some bloke from a few rows away literally threw himself into the spare row in front of us, claiming them as his own. Mikey had a word with the cabin crew and he was directed to another empty seat near his own and Mikey and Emily took up that row meaning we were now three rows of two, and we all had more room which was excellent.

The bubble seats have a really handy shelf/storage bin down the side which is great for putting stuff on and in, but also, if you have an infant with no seat of their own it is useful for them to sit and play on too.

Despite my earlier Eggs Benedict I was starving. They were a bit small and pretty average to be honest, and I shouldn’t throw stones in that particular glass house, but I needed food. With a predicted flight time of eight and half hours drinks were brought round (free, which was nice), and I hoovered up the six pretzels that came with my diet coke in seconds.

Thankfully, food was not far behind and I had a sausage in my mouth quicker than a guest at a Michael Barrymore pool party (I like to keep things topical). It all tasted very good.

We now settled in for the duration with some trying to sleep…

Others, played with Vera…whoever she is….

and most crucially some of us were just impeccably behaved. Freddie was a star for the entire flight, without a hint of trouble, noise or complaint….

There was a lot of looking at this…

and this…

I watched the Darkest Hour with a forty minute nap in the middle of it. After playing Solitaire for a bit I finished the flight by watching Downsizing whilst eating our snack…

I was hungry again so it mattered not what it tasted like. It was devoured. The film was a bit weird, felt about half an hour too long and lost its way a bit.

We started to descend at 7.20 UK time. As they tend to, my ears gave me a fair bit of pain on the way down but I don’t mention it much….just every time I go on holiday.

We were one of the first off the plane and the relief and joy as the first bit of Orlando heat seeped through to us on the walkway from the plane was palpable. I have to say that Orlando is a mess for arrivals. It is warren of corridors and double bag drops and/or dragging cases up and down escalators. It could be a million times easier. Immigration was a ten minute wait and another similar wait for our luggage. As is traditional, Louise is “desperate for the loo” at this point but she was told in no uncertain terms that she could wait until I was getting the car. Words were exchanged, most of them not repeatable here.

Another ten minute wait saw us heading for the garage to choose our carriage for the next two weeks. The criteria was simple. Whichever had the most luggage space would be chosen regardless of all else. After a few minutes of opening various trunks (we are in the US now) we settled on what turned out to be a Toyota Sienna. It took all the luggage fairly easily which was a huge relief.

I was determined to take a few minutes now to get myself familiar with the knobs and buttons at my disposal, again like a Barrymore pool party….but started the thing up to get the air con going. It was a keyless ignition thingy but I did note that there was no sign of the key which could be crucial when it came time to lock the thing later. A search of nooks and crannies proved fruitless and so I piled out of the car, a little frustrated, looking for assistance. The chap I found spoke as much English as I did Spanish, but I think I got my point over as he said, whilst helping us look for the key “No key, car no vroom”. I understood that he meant the key must be somewhere in the car or it wouldn’t start. After a few more minutes Tom found the key under the driver’s seat and we were finally on our way, with me a little sweaty and agitated.

I had unleashed our trusty old sat nav and stuck that to the windscreen but of course in the underground garage it was picking nothing up. The fact it had been in its box for 18 months in a cupboard in the UK also won’t have helped. It was at this point that I made a mental note that in future it would be a good idea to write down, on something close to hand, the actual address of the villa so that I could put it into the thing. As it was, as we emerged from underground and it started working, I browsed recently found destinations whilst trying not to hit anything and chose one that was pretty close to where we were heading. I think it was Old Town, and I figured that if I got us there I’d be able to find Emerald Island Resort.

The first few minutes behind the wheel felt as alien as ever, but I soon settled into it and began to enjoy our travels. It took about half an hour to get to the 192. I had retained all the loose coin from our last trip, rather than leave it behind as I often have and this proved a stroke of genius as they were very handy for the couple of tolls we encountered on the way.

As we reached the Formosa Gardens turn off the 192, there were roadworks and an annoying queue at the lights which made the last five minutes of our marathon journey today a little frustrating. Upon arriving at Emerald Island, I got us past the guard on the gate with some photo ID and the paperwork sent from the villa owner. That same paperwork directed us, without delay or diversion to our new home.

The cases were dragged in and exploring was done. There was a momentary concern that I couldn’t find the second master ensuite bedroom but after turning a corridor upstairs it was located and all was well. Yes the villa was that large that a bedroom could be hidden.

As unpacking happened, I took Tom and Mikey to the supermarket for the procurement of essentials. On the way out I stopped at the clubhouse to get a pass for the gate so we wouldn’t need to speak to the guard every time and with that done we were on our way to spending over $300 on food and things. We returned, unpacked and Louise had a shower. By this point, Freddie was just too tired to function and it became clear that he wouldn’t be fit to come out to eat. So Rebecca, Tom and he stayed at the villa whilst the rest of us ventured out to the Outback.

There was a ten minute wait for a table but were soon knee deep in cheesy bacon fries and a bloomin’ onion.

We had –

Me – Aussie Cobb Salad

Louise – My notes say a cheesy chicken thing

Mikey & Emily – Chicken Caesar Salad

We ordered some stuff to go for Rebecca and Tom, namely some more cheesy bacon fries, a philly steak sandwich and another Caesar Salad which took the whole bill to $140 including a good tip for our lovely server who reminded us of Karen from Will & Grace.

We were back at the villa by 9.30 to find everyone asleep so the food went into the fridge and everyone else hit the hay within seconds.

Till the next time…..

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

Ryan, The Ressurection

Ryan, The Ressurection

Before I begin the usual trivial nonsense about a holiday, last week was a bit of a strange one. Whilst celebrating Emily’s birthday on Thursday, literally as the chinese takeaway arrived, my phone rang. It was my sister-in-law, Paula, which was a bit odd as I knew they were in France. My brother and Paula have a cottage there and they had just arrived for the summer holidays a few days previously.

To spare you the horrors unveiled, whilst out on a bike ride, my brother had been hit by a car, and was at that moment in an air ambulance on the way to hospital. At that stage it wasn’t clear what his injuries were and until we heard from Paula again later that night, it was of course a worrying time.

After scans, and an operation to pin a broken leg, if you can say this with that in mind, he was OK.

He won’t be riding that bike again. I spoke to him the following day and he was in good spirits all things considered and now, he just has to get himself healed and fit again. I always contested that this exercise lark was a danger to your health.

So with that trauma behind us, let us return to your normal programming of trivial nonsense.

Christmas

A March full of birthdays

Easter

Rebecca’s birthday

FA Cup Final

The World Cup

Wimbledon

The Open

Emily’s Birthday

As a seasoned August traveller, these are familiar landmarks on the road to WDW. They are ticked off with increasing excitement whilst all the while trying desperately not to wish my life away.

We’re getting through them now and we are about to round the last bend and kick for home, Mo Farah style. So, as tradition dictates, this time next month, that’ll be me….

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With time pressing on, we are needing to get our act together and get things properly organised and sorted. With that in mind, I spent at least 34 minutes shopping for holiday clothes yesterday. I’m not keen on these long shopping expeditions, but it’s done now and aside from the traditional purchase of the new trainers, I think I have the required clothing.

Another task which needed immediate attention was another injured family member, Ryan. For anyone not in an official state of mourning at his potential demise, shame on you. He has a busted zip, caused by me expecting too much, overfilling him and breaking his main zip. He has idled in the spare room for months, awaiting my attention, and yesterday, I took the bull by the horns and sought a resolution.

It turns out that every seamstress or alterations and repair place in a fifty mile radius of my house objects to opening on a Saturday. I resorted to taking him next door to see if my Mum could tend to him, but she had an ace up her sleeve and pointed me at a place I had not known of who should be able to help.

I made my way there, with Ryan safely nestled in the passenger seat.

“Hang in there buddy, we’re nearly there!”.

The conversation was a bit of an odd one I have to admit.

“Hi, this is a bit of a strange one but I was wondering if you could have a look at my sack”, I opened with.

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The lady was very pleased to see me then place Ryan on the counter. She put the phone down and cancelled the call to the police.

She inspected my busted sack with all the enthusiasm of a Sunday night before work.

“Hmm, it’ll be £20.” she said, expecting me to abandon the foolish project and set Ryan alight.

“It matters not what it costs”, I replied. “It’s a long story….we’ve had him, I mean it a long time, and…”

“I mean you could get a new rucksack for that.” she said as if that were any sort of option.

“NO!!…..no…..I know it’s a bit strange but, we’ve had him for years and if he can be fixed then, that’s what we want to do.” I floundered.

“OK.”

“I know it’s a bit odd”. I mumbled.

“It’s fine, I get asked to do all sorts of odd things.” she replied, a bit weirdly.

My mind raced with what other requests she was confronted with on a daily basis.

Anyway, I paid and left quickly, with a promise that when I collect him next Saturday he will be, as Atomic Kitten once said, Whole Again. Let a nation rejoice, not only at his salvation but also at another majestic song based pun as the title of this post. Seriously, it’s a belter.

Till the next time…..

Discount Disney Tickets

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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