Here we go again. I’m not sure if being locked into a perpetual cycle of writing trip reports is some form of heaven or hell, but here we are. The title of this trip was obviously derived from our touring party covering an age span of one to eighty-four. In fact, Dougie had his first birthday the day before we set off.
This day started like most travel days, with an early start. I never learn. I always set my alarm for the time needed to catch the plane, but Louise is up and about before that by some hours. It was 3.30 when I first looked at my phone. Not to worry though, we got to bed nice and early around midnight. It’s not as if these travel days are gruelling or anything and I’m sure this one will go very smoothly. Right?
I got up to sort the dogs out. They were giving me very confused looks as we stood outside waiting for them to pee. Even they thought it was early.
I emptied the kitchen bin, as I’m sure you all do when going on holiday, made my Mum a brew (she had stayed over at ours to make the getaway as simple as possible) and then showered and dressed. For reasons that do not need explaining I also took a little helper to get me moving in the bowel department. Look, I know that’s not the detail you need but I need to say it to explain how many times I go to the loo during this day.
I loaded the car and we were away at 6.10am after saying our goodbyes and don’t burn the house down to Emily. I was already feeling tired and the drive to the airport was a subdued one, with an undercurrent of excitement that accompanies any Flortida trip.
Even at this hour, the traffic was bobbins, and the infamous concrete tunnels where the M61/A666 meets the M60 presented the usual delays (one for the locals) but we pulled into the car park at 6.40. We were forced to use a meet and greet option as our usual T2 West car park was full. I don’t like the faff of leaving my keys etc and the last time we used this service it was a bit chaotic.
Today, it was much better. A smooth dropoff and no crowds waiting to drop off their keys.
Whilst we waited for the rest of the gang, Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and Dougie to arrive we got a Starbucks and Louise went to test the toilets. As she returned I felt the same urge and to cut a long story short by the time I had returned, everyone had arrived.
There was no queue at check-in and we were relieved and surprised to see us come in underweight. Our luggage that is. I can make no such claim for my BMI.
We had to walk down to the oversized desk, which I thought was harsh. I had lost a few pounds in the run-up to the trip. Turns out that was to deposit the huge bag containing the boys’ car seats.
Security as ever was bobbins. The queue was long, every traveller incompetent and the staff were surly and disinterested.
My Mum’s bag got pulled so we had to wait for her to be examined before we could proceed through to the terminal and some much-needed breakfast.
Taking the queue for breakfast as some sort of post-Covid recovery marker, things are looking up. We only waited a few minutes and even managed to get a table for all seven of us. By now, I am pretty familiar with it, but we looked anyway.
We ordered –
(Disclaimer – there are seven folks on this trip and often times I did not capture the exact names of everyone’s dishes. I have photos for most stuff, but sometimes due to being at the other end of the table, they aren’t great. What do you want from me??)
Juices and coffees
Me and Louise – The Full Works Sandwich
Mum – Scrambled Egg on Toast
Rebecca and Tom – Full English thing
Dougie’s pancakes are also visible in the above shot.
Freddie had this.
We gave Dougie some of his birthday presents for yesterday, the ones which were small enough to carry and might occupy him for a few minutes on the flight.
Freddie took some photos.
Dougie, you may notice, was waiting to get his first haircut on Main Street.
I made light work of my breakfast and the bill was £105.
Off I went to the loo again, but, you’ll be glad to hear, I felt much better for it. You? Not so much. All I’ll say is that I may never look at Stick Toffee Pudding in the same way ever again.
I met the others and we wandered duty-free for a bit. Sadly Louise could not find the perfume she craved. I wept for some considerable time. Tom got some aftershave and Freddie some Jellybeans. I’m not sure who did best out of the two.
WH Smith next for our flight essentials and I picked up a Marvel card game that Freddie had been admiring. It is my duty to spoil them!
It was already time to head to gate 204, which was a long old walk. When we got there Rebecca changed Dougie (his nappy, not for another child) and we boarded what would turn out to be a half-full (or half-empty) plane. Louise was looking forward to her flight time treat of peanut M&Ms. That was until it was announced that someone onboard had a serious nut allergy. She was gutted.
Rebecca noticed that her seat was broken and it would not stop reclining. They were moved to another empty section further down the plane. My Mum stayed with us. This meant everyone had more room and it worked out really well.
We pushed back at 11, taxied for about a week and took off at 11.25.
Drinks were served. On Aer Lingus, soft drinks are free, but alcohol is not. Complementary popcorn was soon demolished and not too long after that, our meals were served. Louise and I chose the peppercorn chicken. I am convinced whatever you choose it tastes the same. It was edible and filled a gap.
Freddie came to visit for a bit so we played with him enduring his never-ending query about our arrival time. He was excited.
I then popped down to see how Rebecca and Tom were doing and ate my ice cream whilst there. I then managed to get Dougie to sleep and returned, the conquering hero to my seat with four and a half hours to go.
I found a golf game on the TV so played that for a long time. The final snack arrived just in time to be eaten before we started our descent. I had a potato, spinach and cheese pastry. It would challenge any amount of Rennies to a duel and probably win.
We had a slow bumpy descent (great name for a band) and Louise embarrassed herself by screaming out a couple of times at some of the bumps. She’s better at flying these days but not totally comfortable.
We landed at 3.15 local time into Terminal C. Again, we spent about an hour taxi-ing to the gate and once released we walked up many ramps to the baggage claim area. If you didn’t know, in the new Terminal C you get your bags before immigration. A big improvement for those with strollers.
We had our cases in ten minutes and joined the queue to be immigrated. It took an age.
Now we had to make the long arduous journey over to Terminal A as that is the only place to pick up the Toll Pass thingy. Elevators, monorails and walking were experienced. We went to get the car sorted first and found the Dollar desk. Of course, out of all the hire companies on offer, only Dollar had any form of queue. Here started the worst car pick-up experience in my 40+ years of going to Florida.
There were three people serving and the queue contained about 15 parties, although nobody was celebrating. You have to question the processes and systems used to give someone a hire car when each one takes about 15 minutes minimum. It took over an hour to get served. Tom and I had left everyone else up near the Toll Pass booth thinking we’d just be a few minutes. We were visited by Louise to enquire what the hell was going on.
We were finally told which space to go to. We did not get the Toyota Sienna we had booked, but it was an 8-seater Kia. We always knew it was going to be tight but this was a nightmare.
To start, one of the middle seats had been removed from the car and left in the trunk. So we had to drag that out before we could try to get everything in. It took about 20 minutes to work out where to put the car seats, luggage and everyone else and then discovered that the car seat from the trunk was still sitting outside the car. I tried to ask men in High Viz vests what to do but few spoke English and none of them cared.
So I walked back to the Dollar booth at the top of the garage to ask for advice. I explained the situation and asked if we could leave that extra seat with them until we returned. The guy I spoke with reacted as if I had spat on his mother.
He literally called me stupid and said that was just not possible. I asked what we could do then. He didn’t really care. He said we could go and get a bigger car, to which I was open, but that meant another hour in the Dollar queue so I wasn’t doing that with everyone feeling exhausted and stressed. It ended in a shouting match in the middle of the Dollar garage. I don’t often lose my temper but I did here. I understood the problem was mine, but as this guy shouted over me, I was just saying, “Well help me then. What can I do?” I was tired.
He offered no suggestions and walked away from me. He has featured heavily in the review I submitted to Dollar when they emailed me asking for a review of my experience.
Somehow, we reconfigured things and got the seat in too. It was uncomfortable and maybe unsafe but it is hard to express the exhaustion and heat at this time and we all just needed to get to the villa. Tempers were frayed.
Then, as we waited at the gate to exit the garage, there was another delay of seemingly endless minutes as the staff member doing whatever they need to do was doing it at a snail’s pace.
Safe to say I would rather set myself on fire than use Dollar again.
At this point Dougie was inconsolable. He cried non-stop and around Lake Buena Vista we had to take a detour to find him some milk. We did so at the shop opposite Olive Garden at LBV. I nipped in picked up a bottle and went back to the car.
It was a few minutes later that I realised that the US have different colours to denote which milk it is. Blue, which is full-fat in the UK is some 2% nonsense and Dougie couldn’t have it. He had calmed down a bit by now and I stopped again at the 7-11 close to our villa to get him the correct stuff/colour.
A little traumatised by recent events we got to the villa at 7.30. It was lovely.
I nipped out to Publix to stock up and brought some pizza back for anyone who was still awake. It’s a shame that you are always so tired during these first shops as they are quite a significant and exciting milestone. You have done all the hard stuff and now comes the fun. Both the boys were asleep so the grown-ups ate too much pizza and then went to bed, glad to have today behind them.
Till the next time…..