Yacht Club Or Bust.

This will be brief. We have so much to do that I can’t be spending too much time papping on here. As things stand, with mere hours until our flight leaves, we are going. That could change of course.

Mary was in very poor health on Thursday evening and we thought we may not be going, and for the sake of our mental health, I guess we have to stay in that frame of mind until we are airborne.

The home she will be in is absolutely equipped with everything and everyone needed for any eventuality, so it’s just a case of her remaining fit enough for us to take her in and us getting on the plane. I appreciate that might sound a little odd, but we need this break.

We’ll be dropping her off early this afternoon and have booked about six removal trucks to do so. She’s taking a fair bit of kit with her.

The last week at work has been a constant stream of meetings that I had to drag myself through. I feel like there are a million things I haven’t done, and that I am bound to forget to do something crucial like check-in for the flight online. Someone remind me!

On Thursday I went to the Post Office to grab a few dollars in cash. The least said about the exchange rate the better. It was borderline offensive.

So the plan for the rest of today is to take Mary in, stay with her for a few hours to make sure she is settled, and then meet Tom, Rebecca and the boys for some tea so we can say our goodbyes, before coming home so Louise can hoover the ceilings and re-pave the front drive, as is the tradition if we leave the country for two weeks. It is going to be a busy pre-holiday day.

Emily and her boyfriend Mikey are house and pet-sitting. With the zoo that we have this is a full-time job so please wish them good luck. With two dogs, three cats and a number of rats that I have lost track of they may have to sleep in shifts.

As ever I will be sharing stuff during our trip on the Mkingdon Facebook page so if you haven’t “Liked” that already, what on earth are you thinking? Go ahead and do that so you can see pictures of a lot of food. On our return, I will be doing some blogging around the trip of course but I’m not sure two weeks of pools and food will make for the most interesting reading. We’ll see.

If all goes to plan, in a few hours (well, a good few) we’ll be enjoying views like this, so keep your fingers crossed for us, please.

Image pinched from disneytouristblog.com

I have been watching my emails like a hawk for Aer Lingus emails, paranoid they are going to cancel the flight. I even checked availability on the Virgin flights tomorrow in case we end up in the lurch and need an alternative. As of yesterday, there were some seats left. Crazy, right?

I am reluctant to say it but it looks like we may actually be going, but I stand ready to be corrected on that.

So enough waffle, there are things to do and flights to check in to.

Till the next time……

Travel Tribulations

Number of days remaining until holiday – Low

Stress levels – High

Confidence levels that we will get on the plane – Low to Moderate

It has been a stressful old week. Work has been ridiculous but more importantly, until late afternoon on Thursday, we had no respite care booked for Mary. If this were as easily obtainable as hen’s teeth, dipped in unicorn semen, we would have fared better. Louise has spoken to every care facility in the North West, and each one had some new and interesting reason why they could not help us, or it was a dump. We were getting worried.

Anyhow, on Thursday I got the call from Louise that her lastest and last visit to a nursing home had paid off, and Mary was booked in. With this news in the bag, I allowed the release of the suitcases from whichever dark hole they had been stashed into since January and the packing has begun, I am led to believe.

The limited belief that we might go away has risen slightly but not to any level that allows excitement to build. This may be the case until we are wheels up from the runway, at the obligatory half an hour later than the take-off time planned. How I long for a holiday that can be booked with the confidence that it will actually happen. It will be a fraught week to come, as we keep everything crossed that Mary remains in a state of health conducive to going on her holidays to the nursing home.

I am getting so paranoid about travel now that every news event is considered a potential barrier to it happening. Of course, I have persistent low-level fear that the airport will be packed and queues horrendous, and/or the airline will cancel our flight at the last minute, but yesterday when the Queen’s funeral was announced for the day we should be travelling, I spent a panic filled few minutes on google trying to figure out if some ancient custom would mean flights might be affected. I know it’s silly, but I am scarred by the last three years of uncertain plans.

These restrained levels of excitement have probably played a part in my resisting making any more ADR bookings. It is one less thing to cancel should it come to that. I would make an exception for O’hana still, as I would like to tie that in with an evening on the Poly beach watching some fireworks and maybe some Trader Sam’s, but the respite care of the North West had more availability it seems. I am getting a bit weary of having to try so hard to “do things” on Disney property. I yearn for the days when all you had to do was pay a small fortune.

In other news, Freddie completed his first week at school and enjoyed it. More importantly, Rebecca is now past the trauma of him going to school for the first time! There were tears.

Dougie rolled over for the first time and has teeth incoming, and at this rate will be at University next week, and I completed ten years of service at my current employer. I arrived home from the office on Thursday to a huge Fortnum and Masons hamper. It is a lovely place to work, assuming you have to work somewhere (and I do), and Louise was very excited, not so much by the contents of the hamper, but more the hamper itself becoming a high-class repository for our Christmas decorations for years to come.

My Dad is coping OK following his release from the hospital but isn’t in the best of health and our work of course is still not complete, with the eternal promise of “tomorrow” being the completion date. That “tomorrow” should have been Saturday and then today, but naturally is once again “tomorrow”.

We have a bit going on as you can see, and if we ever exist in a chaos-free world again, I’m not sure I would know how to deal with it.

Still, on the plus side, only one more week of this unbearable wailing in blog form to endure before we all know either way. I’m off to rock back and forwards in a corner for quite some time.

Till the next time……

Cautious Countdown

Firstly, thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes last week. They were all read and appreciated. The day was spent at work, so it will not rank in my all-time top 10 birthdays, but I got to spend the evening with these dudes and eat some pizza, so all was not lost.

Present wise, recognising I am a bugger to buy for, I did very well. A new iWatch (my other broke a few weeks ago), a huge pack of Pick n Mix, some cash, clothes, a very posh neck pillow for the plane and some dollars for spending on our (hopefully) upcoming trip.

On that note, having endured most of 2020 and 2021 reading these posts each week where I would prattle on about a trip to Florida that wasn’t certain and usually did not happen, I can only imagine your delight that we are back there again now. At least it can only last for a few weeks this time and relies on the health of some parents and not some global pandemic inflicting grief, misery and destitution on the world.

My Dad is home from the hospital as of Friday, and Mary carries on carrying on. As we stand, the trip is on but excitement levels are low, to avoid what could be likely disappointment.

Having talked about how I was going to go with the flow and not plan anything, last week, with all of you already knowing that I was lying, I caved and booked an ADR. I would have booked two had there been any availability on any evening of our entire trip for O’hana, (what’s going on with that?) but there was not and so we just have the one, so far, at Sanaa. That bread service is like a tractor beam.

For those times when we may wish to eat on site, I have been doing some “same day booking” tests with the app. For several days I have fired it up and looked for places to eat that evening and there has been plenty to choose from. So I am trying to hold firm and not tie us to specific times if I can help it, so we can just make plans once we know when we want to eat. Then I can give Louise three hours to get ready, having lied about the actual time of a booking by at least half an hour so that we may only set off half an hour late.

You know we have many off-site places we have to go to, so our on-site culinary adventures may be limited. Having had a quick look at some options around the Swan & Dolphin and noticed that Shula’s steakhouse has a $155 steak on the menu, then it could be McDonalds for many meals!

Our off-site list, as if you haven’t seen it a million times before, will probably include…..

  • Bahama Breeze
  • Olive Garden
  • Romano’s Macaroni Grill
  • Teak
  • Applebees
  • Cowfish
  • Cheesecake Factory

The last of those probably being the standout of our January trip. We have declared them the server of the world’s best Nachos and I will not be taking questions or entering into a debate about that. As Louise is the world’s biggest lover of Nachos, it stands to reason that we return to let her sample what she missed earlier this year.

I had a number of very understandable comments on last week’s post doubting my ability to resist going to the WDW parks, particularly Epcot, as we will be staying so close for half of the trip. My resolve is strong, but of course, all I have seen in my Disney social feeds since booking this trip is how empty the WDW parks are right now and folks are being paid to go on the rides….well, not quite.

There are no plans to change our plans, as we need a relaxing break and the extra cost and complexity of us attempting the Disney stuff is just not compatible with that. I’m not saying my brain is 100% comfortable with that stance, but it’s what we’re doing!

It does feel like everything park related is going to take a good few years to settle down. Perhaps by then, we’ll have been able to ride Remy and Rise?

I was delighted to realise that many of the hoops we had to jump through in January to get on a plane are no longer a thing. Using the VeriFly app this time was much easier, simply uploading our vaccination QR codes and attesting that we had a passport and that was it.

So we’re two weeks away, don’t know if we’re going and doing much of the prep to do so at the same time. It’s the Schrodinger’s Cat of a holiday.

And of course, the work in the garden isn’t finished.

Till the next time…..

Respite Our Best Efforts

Of course the work isn’t finished, why would you even ask? A bit of activity happened, some no shows on a few days followed due to random “issues” and we still plod on towards the inevitable end or my death, whichever comes first as a merciful release.

Anyway, this is not something I wish to focus on this week. I have news. As a side note, you should be very grateful that I do have news, otherwise this week you would be reading an endless moan about drain blockages, leaking pipes (separate incidents on consecutive days) and the enormous stress and expense of resolving them.

One day last week, I think it was Tuesday, Louise appeared in my office/conservatory having made a decision.

She had been thinking, having been confined to bed for many hours with the Covid (yes, she has been stricken but luckily I remained uninfected this time). We needed a holiday she declared, and we could not go on indefinitely without one. She would find suitable respite care for her Mum and we were to go away, immediately, if not sooner.

I was tasked with finding something suitable and again, you may think my first port of call would be a trans-Atlantic flight but it was not. I spent a little while looking at European options, such as Greece and the like and presented a few options to Louise.

To cut a long story short, (it wasn’t that long, she just turned down all the non-Florida options and told me to book Florida) she forced me to go to Florida again. This was mid-morning on Tuesday. By that evening I had researched, planned and booked everything, right down to fast lane security at Manchester and airport parking and had checked into most of the hotels online. I am very good at this.

It may be a popular misconception that our continued patronage of Florida is all my doing, but if you consult the history of our trips, you will find that Louise is often the catalyst.

This will not be our usual trip. Firstly, it will just be Louise and me. Secondly, we will not be frequenting any WDW parks. I know this may shock you, or maybe not. This holiday is mainly for relaxing and the recharging of batteries, so the concept of having to be awake at 7am to battle for things just isn’t something we want to contemplate. I know I will inevitably plan more than I should, but this will be a much more relaxed affair, with pools, going with the flow, relaxing and eating lovely food being the watchwords.

It is a double-edged sword, as I know I will miss the WDW parks when we are adjacent to them, but equally, going to them without the girls, Tom and the boys would be very strange too. We will especially miss World Showcase and I suppose we could shell out for a day ticket, but then we have to worry about getting a park reservation and it’s just a hassle we don’t need.

We are going to stay in some nice places, enjoy the resorts and sneak in some Universal Front of Line park time towards the end.

So what is the plan? Well……assuming we get to go with the health issues of Mary and my Dad, (I have made sure everything I have booked is cancellable until as late as possible)…..

We fly on the 19th of September with Aer Lingus from Manchester. Due to work stuff I could not get out of, this was the earliest date I could come up with. It gives me just over three weeks to lose four stone though.

Our first three nights are at the Yacht Club. You probably know that this is one of my favourite places on the planet and some days spent around Stormalong Bay, and strolls around the Boardwalk with some added Jellyrolls will kick off the relaxation.

Then, despite not going to any WDW parks, we head to Port Orleans Riverside for five nights. I know little of this resort, but to be frank, at this late stage there was very little still available. I consulted a couple of those DVC resort availability websites, thinking I may rent some points, but there was literally nothing available for any of our dates. I had wanted to go to Vero Beach for a few days but there was zero availability.

Anyway, Port Orleans looks lovely and has a lot of eateries and activities along with the required pool(s). There is also the boat service to Disney Springs which will come in handy too.

Then we move to Universal and another stay at the Royal Pacific Resort for three nights, to do more pool stuff and to get our park fix, with the essential Front Of Line, which means we can dip in and out as and when we like, without worrying about lines, wait times or any of the overly complex nonsense that a WDW park now requires.

We end the trip with three nights at the Dolphin. We have never stayed at this resort or the Swan, but again location is the major draw here.

We fly home on the 3rd of October.

I have promised myself and Louise that I will not over-plan this thing. I may make the odd ADR but I really just want to be able to eat when we’re hungry and not have to be looking at the time and getting stressed about Louise making us late for everything! We’ll see how that goes!!

Excitement levels are low at this stage, as we know a lot can happen between now and then, but we are past masters at not knowing if we are going on a trip until the last minute, thanks to the pandemic, but we are both very ready for the break.

I am sure it is psychological but ever since I pressed the button to book, I seem to have succumbed to absolute apathy for anything work-related. I had been hunkered down ready for the long haul through winter without a break and now I know we might be going away, I feel exhausted and can muster very little enthusiasm for anything related to what I do to pay the bills. I am a mard arse as I only went away in January, but it’s been a tough old time in many ways since. Well, that’s my excuse anyway.

It’s funny how our shortest countdown ever feels very far away right now.

Who knows by the time we get back in early October the work in the garden may be finished?

Till the next time…….

Dig, Doug, Dougie

Apologies for the lack of blog last Sunday. We had a lot on and let’s face it, nobody cares.

I was inundated with one message asking if I was still alive, so thank you.

I doubt there are many other blogs where you can receive regular digging updates. It’s a niche market, but I’m happy to tackle it.

More digging has happened. We now have two “tiers” to complete the many other tears all this work is driving us to. To be fair, it has been relatively painless so far, for us at least. The digger driver did have a couple of interesting/terrifying moments in the smaller digger he used to do the final bits of shaping etc, as he traversed the moonscape that is currently our back garden, but the digging, at least involving the big machinery is done. Anything else will be done by hand now.

That is a relief in itself as just getting that sort of heavy machinery into position had the potential to upset the neighbours, damage property and see our field make an appearance in our kitchen.

We spent all week awaiting the delivery of all the materials so the reconstruction could begin. As with everything else in the country these days, building materials have become akin to precious metals and bugger all happened until yesterday as we awaited the delivery of rare commodities like wood and sand. The builders estimate about a week of work to get things complete once stuff arrives, so let’s say two and hope we’re somewhere close to done by the end of August. It’ll be lovely to look out at our new outdoor space through the drizzle and fog of Autumn.

The other news since we last “spoke” was our wedding anniversary on the 3rd. Twenty-six years of marriage and twenty-eight together. People often say things like “where has the time gone” in these circumstances. I know where it has gone. Mainly working, many lovely holidays and the usual mix of ups and downs. Literally, cest la vie.

In other news, and the latest “you couldn’t write it” episode of my life, one evening last week as I returned home from walking the dogs, I spotted some movement near our kitchen bin. What followed was twenty sweaty minutes of Louise and I trying to catch a mole that no doubt one of the cats had brought home and then lost or got bored with. It’s at times like these that you realise how much furniture you have, as the poor little bugger scuttles from one piece to another. Eventually, I threw some tupperware over it and took it outside to hopefully find its way home and not to another cat. We named him Doug. It felt appropriate.

To complete the Dig, Doug, Dougie trilogy, the latter has been a little unwell this week but a visit to the docs confirmed it was nothing serious. He was off his milk, which based on his track record to date, was very unusual. Anyway, he is on the mend and back to staying awake all day, smiling at everyone and eating.

With it being mid-August now, by rights I should be boring you to tears with the detailed coverage of our last-minute preparations for a WDW trip. This time of year has, more often than not, been our time of choice to visit Florida. It isn’t possible this year at this time for many reasons and for Louise and I, we just don’t know when it may be again with Mary needing the care she does. Respite care is not an option as the worry whilst away wouldn’t make for a relaxing time.

I’m not sure I’m ready to tackle WDW again yet anyway to be honest. It seems the more time that passes since our January trip, the less I feel inclined to combat the complicated mess that is visiting a WDW park. It’s like some mild form of Genie+ PTSD. Maybe it is better now? If you’ve been recently I’d welcome your feedback.

The CEO this week confirmed the one call I got right during the pandemic. The park reservation system is here to stay. As I guessed, this is just too useful to Disney in terms of their planning, cost management and ability to staff the parks, or perhaps more relevantly, limit the number of guests aligned to how many CMs they have available.

I don’t mind this too much. As someone who plans their days months in advance, mainly so we can eat where we want to, the chances of us rocking up to a park that’s full and having no reservation are slim to none. What I do object to is having to be awake and on-line around 6.30am to fight for the chance to pay extra money for Genie+ to have any chance of riding anything that resembles a headliner.

With a good number of new rides open or about to, this is only going to get worse. It may be years before folks get to ride a “new ride” even if they visit annually.

With no prospect of a holiday any time soon, the main reason I need to get one booked is that it is typically the only reason and motivation to lose a few pounds and let’s just say I should book about a dozen holidays to generate the weight loss required right now.

Let’s reconvene next Sunday with hopefully, news of a very nearly finished back garden. What could possibly go wrong?

Till the next time…..

Can You Dig It?

Brace yourselves.

The conservatory…….is finished!

Well, I say finished…the workmen have left for the last time so they are done. I have a few small DIY tasks that I have to do (badly) which fell in between all the various trades that worked on it. I have some floor edging stuff to do on the stairs and some beading around the wooden cover for the electric box. This is the sort of detail you need of a Sunday I know.

That happened on Friday. All week we’d been braced for the start of the groundwork at the back and despite a promise of Tuesday, a brief visit to check a few things out on Wednesday it wasn’t until Friday that we were told they would definitely be coming. Of course, it had to happen that despite all the available days, both sets of workmen had to be coming on the same day!

Well, thanks to a fire on the M6 our groundwork chaps sat in traffic for four hours before giving it up. So all that happened on that day was the delivery of the digger and dumper truck.

Do not worry, the next day they were here bright and early and things got going. To access the back of our house, there is a ramp around the side and Saturday morning was the first morning since living here that someone had chosen to park in front of the gate that leads to it. So I spent much of early Saturday knocking on neighbour’s doors, asking if they owned said car.

Long story short, we did not get that car moved, but we did find the owner of the one next to it who moved it and allowed the machinery to squeeze past up onto our field.

Naturally, being peak summer, it rained all Saturday whilst they were working, and in the early stages there were definitely some “what have we done?” moments.

It was better for my mental health not to watch too much, to be honest. By the time they left they had made decent progress with only one minor scare when the digger driver thought he was heading for our conservatory.

You can now start to see the shape of what we are trying to do. One big terrace level at the bottom for a table and chairs etc and one smaller terrace above it mainly to stop the field coming into the kitchen and for flower pots and other stuff that I will not be involved in sourcing.

The thing that concerns me most right now is the photo above shows where the digger was left. It has rained for 24 hours and I have visions of the rain eroding….

the earth beneath it and the digger coming down the hill at speed into our only just finished conservatory. I’ll be very glad when they are back tomorrow to move it. They are bringing a smaller digger tomorrow to get down onto the respective new levels to square them off etc. Hopefully, by early next week, we’ll be past the digging bit and into the putting it back together bit.

This is the worst part of any job for me with my aversion to mess and disruption. It still has to get a little bit worse before it starts to get better. Anyway, this huge investment in our outdoor space will be well worth it so that we can enjoy these endless summers we are experiencing so frequently in the UK!

It has been a while since this blog brought you news of any Florida adventures, but that changes today. Last week, Rebecca and Tom booked a holiday for next April and they are, quite rightly, very excited about the whole thing. They are doing ten nights at Animal Kingdom and then four nights Royal Pacific at Universal. They are in the very early planning stages and it will be weird for them having to plan stuff for themselves and even weirder for me to not to take over and try to plan stuff for them! I am trying to strike the balance between helpful advice and meddling idiot. I think we all know which way that may go.

I shall leave you now, as I have a mound of muck with a digger on top of it to stare at for the rest of the day. If you hear on the news about a fat lad up North getting crushed to death by heavy machinery in his conservatory then you’ll know what happened.

Till the next time…..

Do It (To) Yourself.

As if we are once again in some days gone by, transported back to the latter end of 2021, I bring you important travel news that you will all be aware of already. The need to provide a negative COVID test prior to departure for the US ends today, at least for those fully vaccinated.

There’s a weariness to this news as if a long exorcised ghost has returned to haunt us once again. I mean, imagine if all these years after the vote we were still talking about sorting Brexit out? Right? I suppose with COVID our weariness does not defeat the thing.

With no travel plans in place, I feel like I have lost all touch with what may be required to go on holiday but with testing now gone, at least some of the anticipation and excitement can return in the countdown to a trip. The ever-present sword of Damocles of that last-minute test I know was a huge source of stress in our countdown, so being rid of that, hopefully for good, is a positive step. One small move in the direction of re-capturing some of the magic that we all used to treasure.

From my brief scanning of social media around the Disney experience, that seems to go from bad to worse. I also saw that there were some boardroom shenanigans at Disney recently, with the CEO coming under some pressure. I have no clue if he is directly linked to the poorly perceived park experiences, or whether those calls are made further down the hierarchy, but ultimately I suppose he is responsible and needs to carry the can. It does seem that a lot of the Disney internet community blame him completely for the state of things. The Disney share price is in the toilet, but I suppose as long as crowd levels are high and revenues up, he will probably be OK for the time being.

It is very strange to not have that absolute compulsion and obsession to return. I have not been without that for decades. I am still of the feeling that, for now, the cost and complexity of attempting WDW parks are too high. The squeeze is not worth the juice. As a man who loves a plan that seems silly, but having to be up at 6.30am to fight for the privilege of buying Genie+ and then hoping to get some decent use out of it does not feel like a holiday. As for the best rides, well, as long as we don’t stay on-site, those experiences will be denied to us, even if paying around $10 each to do so were acceptable, which is quite frankly, a disgrace, and Walt should be spinning in his cryogenic chamber.

Recently I have found myself, when asked by those who know I have done a bit of Disney over the years about going for the first time, trying to put them off. They look at me quizzically at first but as I begin to lay out the levels of complexity and planning required to go to a theme park, it starts to make sense to them. That is all before the cost of everything is laid bare.

It feels like a loved one is currently held hostage and I just hope and pray they are returned to us at some point and we can resume the relationship we have had for many decades. Driving massive crowds to parks with limited availability and huge queues by continually adding accommodation without expanding the parks or adding a new one or two is not sustainable in my view. Especially when those excessive crowds are then denied the previously free method of getting on a ride or two and made to pay extra for the “privilege”. Yes, investment is being made in new attractions, but they are typically replacing old ones and will only serve to increase the crowds and demand even further. That fifth gate is desperately needed.

I’d have had more empathy for Disney if they had come out and said COVID has been hard for us and we need to do a ticket price increase beyond the norm to keep the experience as you expect it. Adding $10 a day to everyone’s ticket would have generated much more revenue and pissed off fewer guests in my view, leaving the free FastPass+ system as it was.

Before posting this I was watching one of those House In The Sun programmes whilst breakfasting. A family were looking for a holiday home and of course, considered properties all around the places we all know so well. Of course, with these programmes you know they could have been made at any point between the 1990s and yesterday and with that in mind, it is not too shocking to hear that it stirred a yearning for the “that” Florida. Whilst I am currently not on the best terms with the WDW parks, I miss Florida and how I feel when I am there. Our return is inevitable but as yet unplannable.

In real-life news, my Dad has spent a few days in hospital this week. I won’t go into the details but he had some treatment that seems to have massively helped and hopefully he will be home in the next few days. One major downside of getting old is that parents do too and inevitably incur health issues. I do not like this, so if that could stop I would appreciate it.

Louise’s Mum, Mary, continues to bounce back from a recent suspected minor stroke a couple of weeks ago. She too went through a bad time a month or so ago with a prolonged hospital stay, with pneumonia, but is thankfully now making good progress in recovering from both of those things. She is a tough old boot as they say.

Rebecca is making her own recovery too from her C section, with her scar causing some concern and trouble. I suppose having a baby freed from your stomach is apparently quite a big thing and your body does not appreciate it. Dougie and Freddie are both doing very well and are very much welcome positive beams of light in our lives.

I am hopeful that the week to come may be the final week of conservatory disruption. The builder doing it had the absolute gall to go on holiday for a week last week, so it has been stood progress-less for that time, and my OCD-driven hatred of tasks being incomplete has been rife for that time. Luckily just as this work is coming to an end, we are “hoping” to have someone start flagging our back garden. I can’t wait!

As Radiohead once said, you do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts.

If you can’t end a blog post with an oblique song lyric, are you even trying?

Till the next time……

A Lack Of Positivity

I hope everyone had a glorious festive period. My radio silence over that time was intentional. You didn’t need me moaning about the usual stuff as you celebrated. Also, a lot has happened since I last posted.

The main thrust from a COVID restrictions point of view is that there haven’t been any, yet. I’ve long since given up trying to predict what may happen. We will just deal with whatever happens as it does. That all became fairly insignificant on the 22nd of December when Louise’s mum was found at home after not answering her phone for a few hours, having had what was thought to be a minor stroke. She was taken to hospital and remains there.

At that point of course none of us were even thinking of the holiday. It was apparent at that point that based on how she was then, we could not be sure of anything, least of all a trip to the States.

Over Christmas her condition has improved marginally and at least she is speaking a little and knows who we are. The hospital she was in for the first week or so was in lockdown due to a COVID outbreak and it was heart-breaking not being able to visit. We Face Timed every day so at least she got to see us that way. She has now moved to her local hospital and Louise at least is allowed to go and see her.

The long term implications of all this are unknown at this stage, but as much as we can say, she seems relatively stable now and out of immediate danger as much as anyone aged 90 can be after what she has been through. Please send her your collective best wishes for a good recovery. Here she is in better health not long ago.

Over many long discussions, despite Louise deciding not to travel, she has been adamant that the rest of us should go. We have been debating and worrying about this constantly and none of us are entirely comfortable with that option.

It would take too long to cover here all the different elements and factors around making this decision and whichever way it ended up going, none of us could say we would be totally happy.

With Mary now in a bed in her local hospital rather than the specialist stroke unit at Salford and with her having improved slightly, we have decided to take the trip without Louise. Even typing that makes me uncomfortable, but for many reasons, and mainly not to break Freddie’s heart by cancelling, we are going to go ahead.

If I heard someone else was doing this I would be shaking my head in disappointment and bewilderment so I understand anybody else doing the same. I could go into all the reasons for doing this but it would only be to make myself feel better and that wouldn’t work either, so it is what it is.

All this comes before any concerns about the current state of the pandemic of course but everyone who can be is triple jabbed or recently recovered in Tom’s case and he now has to wait to get the booster, so we have done all we can. This trip has always felt like a war of attrition and going despite many internal voices screaming I shouldn’t seems the only way this saga could have ended.

What sort of trip we will have I don’t know. It obviously won’t be the same without Louise being there for a start before we add in the worry about Mary and how Louise is coping back at home. There will be a lot of video calls for sure. Whether we will be able to relax and have some fun remains to be seen but at least Freddie will get to go on what will be the first trip he remembers after what has been almost two years of telling him he is going to see Mickey. Moving the trip again wasn’t an option for a couple of reasons. One, Rebecca is 20 weeks pregnant so any trip for her now will need to be at least 12 months from now when the new arrival is at least six or seven months old and of course we have no way to know what will be happening with Mary with anything like the degree of certainty we would need to know when a future trip my be possible for us all.

Rocks and hard places have been the story of our festive period.

So I’m a mess of conflicting emotions. I feel like a dick for going and leaving Louise at home but she wants us to go and have a good time. In addition to abandoning my wife and mother in law I am flying my family into the eye of a horrendous COVID storm in the shape of Florida and more trivially most of the parks seem to have closed 70% of their rides for maintenance the day before we get there. Can you feel the positive vibes gushing forth for this trip??

Hopefully it will all feel better once we get there. Negative tests permitting of course.

Speaking of which, I did my required testing this morning and the results confirmed my suspicions and feelings about myself right now.

We are all thankfully negative. Once we had decided to go ahead we have literally hidden ourselves away for days trying to avoid all human contact. It feels like more people have COVID than not right now, so a full house of negatives is a miracle I was not expecting.

Let’s see what we can make of this trip with all these positive vibes going for it!

As ever on our trips, I’ll be going live on the Mkingdon Facebook page from time to time so give that a Like if you want to be pestered by that.

Till the next time….

Incoherent Ramblings About The Unknown

What a mess. Stress levels are through the roof, much like case numbers and with each passing hour we seem less sure of what will happen.

Welcome to trip planning pandemic style.

There are those who might say, why are you attempting to travel in a pandemic. I have some sympathy with that view, however, the rest of time will contain COVID so if not now, when? I guess after Omicron has run its course? See how I can argue with myself endlessly?

If I had tried to choose travel dates that would lead to the ultimate stress and confusion levels, I could not have done much better. It seems our dates will be right in the eye of this storm and there is no way to begin to predict what might be the situation. In the coming weeks perhaps the UK may be seeing a tailing off of Omicron cases, but the US is a little behind us and could be right at the peak. Having said that, the US may be just as bad as us right now and is just doing less testing. Who the hell knows.

Whilst much of my brain naturally gravitates to the worst case scenario, which is me fighting for refunds for the next three months or so, and staring down the barrel of no WDW trip until well into 2023, there is some small part of me which is mildly optimistic. This part of my brain ordered my “new trainers for the holiday” this week. Once again they are not the bright white abominations of years gone by. These days I am all about the blue Skechers. Very comfy.

Just to add a little spice to the mix last week, on Tuesday, Tom tested positive, initially on lateral flow and later confirmed by PCR. Rebecca and Freddie have spent the week sleeping on a blow up bed away from Tom and so far, their daily testing has come up negative. It’s weird.

So what on earth is our plan? Good question.

We’ve decided to limit all interaction over Christmas once we get past Christmas Day. We have cancelled a panto on the 27th, all of Mustard’s gigs leading up to Christmas were cancelled and we will pretty much only be seeing those who are travelling plus our triple jabbed parents in the ten days up to departure.

We are and will be testing very regularly and I think the main risk to us being able to go will be one of us testing positive within those ten days before we go. That is very stressful. Even by doing no mixing beyond Christmas Day there is still a chance one of use tests positive in the few days after that of course. Tom should be OK now as he’s been through it but I cannot tell you how stressed I am about one of us getting it before we go.

At some point, and I think that will be next week, we need to go ahead and order the remaining tests we don’t yet have booked, specifically the return to the UK ones. They can take a few days to arrive and with the festive break that’s as late as I want to leave it. I’m also going to buy some extra travel insurance to protect us against not being able to travel due to infection/isolation and if any of us test positive over there and need to stay for the ten days isolation. For our PCR tests once back in the UK , we can order them whilst we are in the US as we only need that order reference for our passenger locator form 48 hours before flying home. Things may change before we fly back as that is over four weeks away yet. They could be back to lateral flow or we could of course be required to quarantine for ten days depending on how things play out.

With all of this in mind, of course, the easy option would be to not go at all. But then, refunds become more challenging as there is technically nothing stopping us going, so that would be a battle and we would no doubt lose very large chunks of cash. It’s going to be a very nervy few weeks for sure. This is adding to what is already a stressful period of life and there is no perfect or anything close to perfect solution right now. We just have to wait.

I honestly don’t think there will be a closure of borders by the US. I don’t know of course, but it seems pointless. France and Germany seem to be restricting travel for UK visitors, but I think there are other things at play there. France may well be political and Germany has had a horrendous time with Delta which is just subsiding, so with Omicron just about to hit them they are doing all they can I guess. Border closures seem futile. Omicron is already everywhere and if arrivals are tested and vaccinated they pose no greater risk than anyone already in that country. The big risk and fear for us is a positive test amongst our group on or after Christmas Day. Have I mentioned that I am stressed about this?

Trying to predict what may happen is becoming my main hobby and I simultaneously read articles that tell me Omicron is more mild and hospitals will be fine, and South Africa is now seeing case numbers fall away again, and other ones which tell me Omicron is at least as severe as Delta and we should already be in full lockdown.

I think it is inevitable that further restrictions will come to the UK. I suspect had they not pissed away all their credibility by having an endless series of parties last Christmas we would be in tighter restrictions now. I don’t think anything the UK government does can stop us flying to the US. That is the prerogative of Biden. Again I am guessing.

I did think yesterday just how nice it would be to just be able to count down to this trip, certain that we would be going. How we all took that concept for granted.

Fifteen days to go. None of us can get excited, it does not feel like we are going and maybe that will be the outcome. Only uncertainty remains certain and you all know how well I deal with that.

If you are in a pre-trip position like us, you have all our sympathies. I know this is just a bloody holiday and people are losing their lives and livelihoods. We are fortunate in many, many ways of course, but I can only talk about my own experiences really and this is what they are. A frustrating mess. The worst bit I think is that there isn’t even a deadline beyond which I feel confident saying we will be going. We could be in this tense limbo until departure. What a fun couple of weeks this will be.

Till the next time…….

Coin Toss

I really should know better and by now, tempting fate should be the last thing I do, but, if I am honest, at times I can almost convince myself that we may actually get to go on this holiday. Well, from a COVID restrictions point of view anyway.

Other life events, particularly the well being of Louise’s Mum may play their part yet, but I don’t think we will see any further travel restrictions now. Let’s face it, it is impossible to undertake any more testing than is already in place and with Omicron now everywhere in the world, there is very little to be gained from closing borders.

The other event that happened this week has also all but confirmed that we will go. We have bought two new suitcases. That investment means there is no turning back now and we must be aboard that plane.

What sort of trip we will have is a different matter of course, with all these tests, masks and faff but we take what we can get at this stage.

That’s one way to look at things but as with every painful twist and turn through this epic will we won’t we saga it is equally easy to argue that every passing day sees the messaging being ramped up about the need for further restrictions and rather than just do them, the powers that be as ever leak out teasers to test the waters and soften us up.

Literally anything could happen between now and January 3rd. I think it is pretty likely that January will see some tighter lockdown rules in the UK once we’ve all done our duty by spending all our money in the shops and at our Christmas parties, and if we do get to go then we may just miss their introduction but come home to them. Ten days quarantine for returning travellers anyone?

It is a bit surreal to be this close to a trip and still not know if we will go. This is the closest we have got of all the dates we’ve had booked, but for our own sanity I think we have had to not let ourselves believe it is happening. I’m not even sure if and when there may be further reviews and announcements. Having gone into plan B in a panic to divert the media has he now shot his bolt that he had loaded for the 19th of December?

It probably doesn’t matter as only a US change of policy about their borders would scupper us I think. My guess is the first we would hear about that will be if it happens. I am so weary of tossing this same coin what feels like every week now. I’m sure you are too.

So we go on, day by day, edging closer to a final answer. If I were a betting man and had to put a money on one outcome I would say right now it’s more likely we get to go, just. Only just. Much as this endless uncertainty has removed much of the wind from my sails for the anticipation of this trip it has also removed the same wind from writing about it, so we will leave it there for everyone’s sanity and see what next week brings.

Till the next time…..

Testing Times

It sounds counter intuitive but I have been through some really dark times in relation to this bloody holiday. Of course, that’s me being a drama queen and it shouldn’t be like that, but we live in unprecedented times.

Last week, I think it was Tuesday, I approached the point of “this isn’t worth it”. I’ve been close at various points and there wasn’t one major event that broke this camel’s back, so I guess it was the culmination of lots of straws.

I awoke to a message from a blog reader over in the States. Yes, that’s right, this blog IS international baby. He was giving me a heads up about a rumour that testing requirements were about to change in the US. I was still sulking and reeling from the move to PCRs on the return to the UK so this was not surprising, but it was unwelcome news.

I did some twittering and other internet things and it did seem that it was a real thing and we would need to do our fit to fly test one day before departure and not the three as we had previously thought and booked. Even as I type that, I see it isn’t a big deal. At the time, it felt like a body blow and started my journey to the edge of my tolerance.

As I tend to, I found myself not waiting and seeing but instead trying to move our tests before the hordes tried to, once this was eventually announced. Why I thought there would be any hordes suddenly taking up all the testing slots on the 2nd of January, I don’t know. I’m tired.

I found the way to do it on-line and quickly and easily moved the video call for Louise and I to a new date. I asked Emily do the same with hers (she will be at her boyfriend’s so will need her own call). She tried. It errored and I had no choice but to phone them up. As I was finding how to do that I got a text from our test provider confirming I had moved our test successfully and they were reminding me it was tomorrow, so don’t forget. Tomorrow? What were they talking about? How could they be so stupid.

They weren’t. I was.

In my haste and a multi-tasking maelstrom I had moved the test not to the 2nd of January but to the 2nd of December. I now had to urgently contact them as that slot was the next day.

I will gloss over the frustration and despair caused by 45 minutes of the same hold music and skip to the part where as soon as they answered, my signal dropped and I was disconnected. Objects were thrown, things were shouted. Thankfully I was alone in the house as Louise had taken her Mum to A&E after a funny turn. It’s been a “fun” week all round.

Another 55 minutes on hold and I got through to some poor soul who had to deal with me at breaking point explaining the mess I had made and what I needed. Even though I had her confirm several times what we now had in place once she had sorted it, and I got confirmation emails, I was still not convinced it would all go smoothly. Anyway, we had three tests booked across two different video calls for the 2nd of Jan now. Rebecca, Tom and Freddie booked their own tests with a provider that only allow you to book 30 days out so they can and have now just selected the 2nd of January with hopefully more competence than I did.

On top of all that, we then had the wait until 6.30 UK time for the Fauci press conference that my US blog reader (thanks @pabs) had tipped me off about. I was still fearing closed borders and a communal burning of our passports and park tickets.

In the end, Fauci seemed quite chilled about the whole thing, briefly mentioned the one day test thing and that was it. For now then, we are still on, but I dread every day for new developments. Now of course, with Louise’s Mum’s hospital trip, that also casts a doubt over our ability to go on holiday and leave her. She’s 90 and lives alone. If we get to stand on Main Street and look at the castle this January, I may cry for the first week of the holiday in absolute relief.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, somehow fitting all that in between a ridiculous workload, I think I actually said out loud, “this isn’t bloody worth it”. I’m sure, no, I’m hopeful that these dark clouds are temporary and somehow by hook or by crook we will finally get to go on this bloody holiday, but I can’t let myself believe it just yet.

Then Friday morning came and like some weird lucid dream, my fears were realised and confirmed. We had emails from DocHQ telling us our tests on the 2nd of January had been cancelled. Tethers were waved at as I passed the end of them and I assumed the position on the phone again pre 8am. Surely at this time I would get through?

Of course not. The line would not even connect. I was googling around to find an alternative phone number so I could shout at someone when I stumbled across their Facebook page where a post announced they had dropped a bollock and cancelled a load of appointments in error and would re-book them all. How I laughed.

My mental state is no doubt being replicated amongst all travellers soon to be on their way. You only have to look at the Facebook groups and the huge amount of confusion and mis-information being thrown around by folks in a tizzy. Everyone is looking for clarity and reassurance and just to know what to do. What ends up happening is more panic. I engaged on one such post where it was suggested that the 1 day fit to fly would also need to be PCR. There was absolutely no mention of that anywhere by anyone in a position to do so in the US, so I don’t know where it came from, but chaos ensued in the thread as everyone was fretting about how on earth they would get a PCR result within 24 hours without paying hundreds of pounds for each test. Where this is a vacuum of information, folks will fill it I guess. That could be a strap line for my entire blog.

Why folks are inventing new hurdles when there are plenty go around already I do not know.

As I do every week, I hoped that was the end of the stress and worry about this trip. Then, last night, the latest kick in the twins came when the UK government announced that tests were needed before flying back to the UK. I was out gigging last night so I have no clue what tests those might be, crucially how much they will cost and whether you need all the certificates and stuff, but I suspect you do.

You will know that I have always been supportive of measures to shorten the pandemic. I am triple jabbed, have worked from home, worn masks and everything else asked of me. What I find unfathomable is the mixed messaging of “you should absolutely continue with all your Christmas plans and have loads of parties in crowded unventilated locations” but should you dare venture out of the country then we will make that as hard and as financially unattractive as we possibly can.

If anyone has figured out what this new test before flying home is (PCR vs lateral flow? I guess the latter) and whether it needs to be video supervised/done by a person and then a certificate entered onto your Passenger Locator form, I would be really grateful for that information. At this point I just need to work out if this is worth the unending obstacles being put in place. I suspect these won’t be the last thing either.

This used to be fun.

Till the next time……..

Unvarying Misery

Shit got real last week, with planning stepping up several notches. Well, I say planning, it was more holiday admin that needed doing.

I booked our tests on Friday. Yes, irony alert, my impeccable timing knows no bounds. They came to about £43 each for the fit to fly video one and the day two return to the UK test. Both are lateral flow and of course events have conspired to see those being irrelevant for the return leg now, and we await the US’s changes in response to this variant, as they may well insist on PCR for arrivals too, but more on that later. Our pre-flight tests are booked for New Year’s Day. My paranoia around positive results has not abated. I am pleased to see that tests these days seem to only involve a nasal invasion as I only have to look at the swab to start gagging. Avoiding putting long foreign objects in my mouth is a life rule I like to stick to.

I have downloaded the Verifly app as advised by Aer Lingus and as soon as my vaccine certificate covers our departure date I will start filling stuff in. I am actually due my booster in early December so I will hopefully be completely Teflon to any and all diseases that may come my way. If it and wearing a mask on the plane can stop me picking up the usual stinking cold I have got on the last few trips I will be happy.

I did some painful things too, like paying the balance on the villa, paying for the hire car and securing our Universal tickets, also known as everyone’s Christmas presents. I went for the cheapest option available which was a 2 day ticket, but limited to one park per day. The only thing that prevents us doing is the train journey between parks and for the hundreds of pounds difference in price, we can watch it on YouTube.

I downloaded the Universal Resort app, where my tickets are now resting digitally, ready for use. Upon doing so I noticed you could make dining reservations for restaurants there, most importantly City Walk, so we now have a lovely booking for Cowfish on our first night there at 8pm. With just two days in these parks they will be full on theme park commando affairs, so eating at 8pm, just as the park closes is the only acceptable time.

I still haven’t seen a definitive answer on those 3 day tests for Freddie. I’m pretty sure nobody checks them, but whether you can take an NHS freebie or have to buy one in a pharmacy there, it makes little difference. At least there’s no video consultation involved.

I also filled out our passenger info on the Aer Lingus site. I was amazed to find I hadn’t already, but maybe I did but it got lost in one of the 17 re-bookings I had to do.

Of course, as mentioned above the Universe spotted all this activity and financial outlay and delivered a threatening COVID variant that could well derail the whole trip and maybe all international travel again, but hey, let’s not worry about that right now. That would be nice, but by now you know that isn’t my style. I did not take the news well that PCR tests were now required, hours after booking and paying for lateral flows. Beyond that of course if things don’t go well over the next few weeks, and let’s be honest when has it during this pandemic, my fear is the trip will be impossible again. You may have noticed that today’s post was a little later than has been the case recently and that was because I had to nip to hospital to have my bottom lip surgically restored to a more natural position. I have been in a sulk and a strop since around tea time yesterday.

So yes, it’s been a busy old week on the holiday front, and the metaphorical kick in the balls yesterday’s changes delivered were comically timed after I had finally started to give myself permission to believe that we may actually go. I see the cosmos waited though until I had undertaken maximum financial exposure before allowing all this shit to kick off. I don’t have a persecution complex, I am just persecuted.

I do have to say that if our plans do get scuppered by some COVID related shite, then we’ll give up. It won’t be practical for Rebecca to travel any later into her pregnancy and Louise will find it impossible to get time off beyond January for quite some time. We’ll be looking at mid to late 2023 for any plans to be a reality at that point.

If travel to the US is suspended again, it won’t be pretty around these parts. I’m just putting out an early warning!

We have also planned another trip, tomorrow, over to Cheshire Oaks. Louise tells me we need some new luggage and not only that, buying it online and saving petrol and about three hours driving would be a folly beyond comprehension, so off we will go. Whilst there I will take the chance to procure some hoodies. Yes, I know I have some already and most are only a decade or so old, but what the heck, I deserve it. Looking at photos right now in Orlando, it seems there may be a lot of chilly nights so a couple of good quality hoodies will be essential. Emily is cold in Florida in August so she may have to buy extra luggage space on the plane for the amount of layers she will need to take. Now you see, even that shopping trip seems a bit futile. I am deflated and demoralised by the whole thing. Again.

If I allow the grown up in me to speak up, it would say that the likely outcome here is that the only change to our plans will be having to fork out for a PCR test for our return to the UK test, and most likely the same for the fit to fly as I expect the US to follow suit, on top of the money already pissed away on the lateral flow version. In the scheme of things, that’s not too bad, but if you look up all the times I have said “in the scheme of things that cost isn’t too bad” I could have bought a second home.

My inner child, which is currently writing most of this post is screaming Verruca Salt style that the Universe hates me, it’s all really unfair and if this trip gets cancelled I will be in a tantrum for about six months. It’s all about balance.

On a serious note, if we cannot go, the thought of no WDW for at least another 18 months, and all that uninterrupted work instead, well, I can’t tell you how that makes me feel. I suppose I just tried.

So you find me not in a good place today. All I can do is sit and wait, again, with thousands of pounds dangling by a thread, not knowing, even this close to the trip whether we will actually go. As many of you will have experienced, it has just drained all the joy out of the now, almost two year build up.

You can return next week for more positive vibes and mature takes on life threatening pandemics that are inconveniencing my holiday planning.

Till the next time……

Lament and Lamination

With the week just ended, the plan, whilst not quite laminated, is pretty much complete. I am happy with it. I lament the fact that the plan is not perfect, but they never are, as the fact that other people insist on being there at the same time and stealing our desired eating times means that to secure some of our choices we are having to eat at odd times. We shall somehow cope.

I think I left you last week in our Universal break, where we plan to eat at Cowfish on night one and Teak on night two, and I was waiting for those days to pass to try and secure the last few WDW ADRs.

I was majestically successful with Via Napoli, if you consider eating dinner at 3.55pm a success. Similarly, Sanaa was bagged with the minor sacrifice of only being able to eat at 9.10pm. That, I think is our latest dining time of the trip and staying awake long enough may be a challenge for those of us pregnant, under 5 or middle aged and overweight. We will endure.

The last day (in Magic Kingdom of course) is always a tricky one. You want to go out with some sort of culinary bang, but also want to spend as long as possible in the park and the two things can be mutually exclusive. I considered just letting it all hang free and we would scavenge as best we could from snacks and counter service, but the compulsion to plan overtook me and I booked something.

I am very happy with the result. I decided to go for Steakhouse 71 at the Contemporary, for lunch. It’s a stroke of genius, well, as close as I come to one. We get to nip out of the park when it will theoretically be at its busiest, try a new eatery within a resort that is always worth a visit and a look around and finally, and let’s face it, most importantly, there is this….

I know the whole concept of booking meals 60 days in advance will be bizarre to some not au fait with the whole WDW thing, but I also know what dessert I will be having.

With that done, we will back in Magic Kingdom by early afternoon, ready to weep through the final few hours. Then when we become hungry again just a few short hours later, we can unleash the snacks.

So overall, I am pleased with the plan. Let’s be honest, after all this time I am just happy to have one at all. There are some ADRs I couldn’t get but that has just meant us trying new places or revisiting some old favourites and it’s all good.

To avoid anyone ploughing through the entire plan again here is a list of all the places we plan to eat.

  • Whispering Canyon
  • The Cheesecake Factory
  • Bahama Breeze
  • 50’s Prime Time
  • Hash House A Go Go
  • Miller’s Ale House
  • Rainforest Café
  • Jungle Skipper Canteen
  • Cowfish
  • Teak Neighbourhood Grill
  • Olive Garden
  • Via Napoli
  • Ford’s Garage
  • Sanaa
  • Steakhouse 71

I’ve put on half a stone just typing that out.

I am still waiting for definitive news on the day 3 test Freddie needs in the States. It is looking like they are unsupervised and based on an honour system so we should be able to take a free NHS lateral flow test and just make sure he is negative. I can’t see anybody checking on these as folks fly home, but we’ll find that out this week I guess as those who went out on the 8th start to return.

My paranoia about one of us testing positive before we fly grows by the day. The irony of getting so close and then producing a positive test would be unimaginable. It is made worse by the fact that we will be taking those tests on New Year’s Eve so if the worst happens, trying to contact insurance companies, airlines and any bugger else will be a nightmare as the two days after that are holidays. Best not to think about it. Yeah, right.

It may be a form of trauma caused by the trip denials and delays of the last couple of years but I still can’t fully believe we will go. I just have this awful fear something is going to happen between now and then. Unfounded I imagine, but unsurprising based on recent history.

The other planning decision we made this week was to do airport parking rather than a taxi. There were two main reasons for this. Firstly I couldn’t get any bloody taxi firm to get back to me with a price and confirmation they were available and secondly having done the airport parking thing recently for Gran Canaria, we preferred it. So that is all booked now. It removes one small worry about taxis turning up at either end of the trip.

With our trip happening right after Christmas our decorations are going up a bit earlier than usual, as they will be down again before we leave. It does appear that we bought the incorrect house as our tree does not fit anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, the new house is bigger than the old one, it just has lower ceilings and odd shapes, being an old Farmhouse, so we spent a good deal of this weekend trying to find a solution. Moving house again is not one of them. The expense of buying another tree is equally unacceptable.

As we get close to departure now, with just four weeks left at work, Freddie was measured a few days ago. In his new trainers he is a fraction under 44 inches. This means there is very little he can’t get on and the stuff he can’t I don’t think we’d want him riding anyway. It’s good to know he will be able to enjoy most things, unlike his Mum who will be sat outside the majority of rides watching Ryan! There will be other trips!

Till the next time…..

Kungaloosh!

Thanks for all the nice messages about last week’s good news. It was nice to be able to finally share that with everyone and hopefully put behind us what has been a fraught number of months. I know Rebecca and Tom would want me to thank everyone who wished them well.

It is only now can you fully appreciate the level of planning skills I have had to deploy to cope with that lovely news and a global pandemic when trying to get us on this bloody holiday!

On the subject of lovely news, at the other end of the life spectrum, last Sunday we held a small get together to mark Louise’s Mum’s 90th birthday. After almost two years of lockdowns I think she loved seeing all the friends and family we had gathered together and the left over party food that’s been in our fridge all week has done nothing for my pre WDW diet.

I have been nuts deep in work this week, but I have managed to find sufficient time to be equally deep in ADR getting. Results have been mixed. I reported last week that we could not get O’hana, but Whispering Canyon was a worthy alternative. On the positive side (despite a few of you telling me Prime Time was now crap!) I did manage to get us in there on one of our Hollywood Studios days. Hopefully the experience will be somewhere close to our memory of previous visits.

I was less successful on other days, having to sub in Rainforest Café for Yak and Yeti at the Animal Kingdom. I know what we are in for there, and I’m not expecting life changing food, but the theming and experience should go down well with the four year old in our group. I will try to get into Yak and Yeti on another day at AK. If not we will try a walk up, such is our fondness for the place.

For the 10th of January (in what other context would planning your eating 60 days in advance be normal?), when we are in Magic Kingdom, I again tried O’hana for dinner but there was more sign of my fringe than an opening there so we moved to plan B. In the spirit of trying something new I booked us in at the Skipper’s Canteen Jungle Cruise place. That is almost definitely not its correct title but it is one of those places that I will never get the real name right for. We have had to go for a mid afternoon time slot but if there’s one thing we can do, it is eat whenever required to.

I haven’t read any reviews and I’ve only had a cursory glance at the menu, but at the point I read this, the booking was confirmed.

Kungaloosh!
An African-inspired Chocolate Cake with Caramelized Bananas served with Cashew-Caramel Ice Cream topped with Coffee Dust

I do suspect our party size is making ADRs harder to come by. We could try and book separate ADRs for a four and a two I suppose but the faff of that is off putting. I imagine eateries are geared up for more normal parties of two and four as standard table configurations.

We had a break for a few days in terms of securing ADRs as the next two days of the trip are at Universal and then I have some off site stuff planned in. Next I need to secure our usual spot at Via Napoli on the 14th of January. That has quickly become one of our firm favourites. That will pretty much see the plan complete from a dining perspective, with just Sanaa on our minds for our first day at Coronado Springs. I intend to have a three course meal, each of which will be the bread service.

I have our last day in Magic Kingdom currently with no eating plans and that’s always a tricky one, as we want to spend as long as possible in the park. We have in previous years “nipped out” to an off site eatery and we do need to find a spot for Romano’s Macaroni Grill if we can but I may succumb to somewhere in the park, even if it is counter service just to give us maximum “bottom lip” time on our final day.

Away from food, nothing seems to be any clearer with regard to some of the testing required. I watched the first flights leave for Orlando last week, and over the next few weeks we should start to hear what those with unvaccinated children did for their 3-5 day test in the US. My gut feel is that you sign the attestation form to say you will test them and isolate them if positive and nobody checks that you actually did. The question I currently have is whether you can just take a free NHS lateral flow test from home and use that or whether for some inexplicable reason you need to buy one instead.

Last week at work we went live with a major project that had taken many months to deliver and that seems trivial when compared to the logistics of getting on holiday to WDW right now.

Rebecca and Tom went for their 12 week scan on Thursday (I think). All is well, the baby had hiccups during the scan and Rebecca is starting to feel movement now, so everything is looking positive. She is due her 20 week scan on our first full day in Orlando so that has had to be pushed back until the day after we get back. Whatever is in there quite rightly already has a WDW trip as a higher priority than being scanned to find out whether they are a boy or a girl. He/She will have been on two holidays by the time they arrive and that somehow sets the tone nicely for what lies ahead I hope. If you look closely below I’m sure I can see some Mickey ears being worn.

Then to end the week, we’ve spent a lovely weekend entertaining some friends of ours from Yorkshire who we haven’t seen in too long and it’s been lovely catching up and eating lots together. They are Disney experts and DVC owners so it’s always nice to have fellow Disney folks to chat to.

Imagine getting me ranting about Genie, COVID and price increases in person rather than in a blog you can just stop reading! Poor Steve and Di.

Till the next time…….

Room For One More?

Let’s start this week with the best news. Rebecca and Tom are expecting again. Here is not the place for the detail but as happened with Freddie they have been on a bumpy journey to get to this point, but with everything crossed, their new addition will be very much welcomed into the world next May.

They have been on this journey with scant regard for how it has impacted my planning and multiple rearranging of dates but I suppose some things take precedence even over our WDW trips! Rebecca will be around 20 weeks when we go, so hopefully that small window of trip availability, found with some definite threading the eye of a needle skills, will be the best it can be for her. Fingers crossed, she will be in that sweet spot of being over the sickness but not too far along to find getting around a problem.

If you could not let Bob Chapek know the news please, as he would no doubt be wanting us to buy another park ticket for the upcoming addition. It’s lovely to bring you such good news.

I took last week’s post as something of a wake up call. Clearly, looking at the plan in the state it was in, I had been phoning it in, as they say. I’m sure many of you thought the same and were too polite to say and a couple of readers said it. Sometimes you need that kick up the backside.

When you get a comment asking why there is no Teak Neighbourhood Grill on your current plan you know its time for an intervention. Usually our visit to Teak is planned in just before we book flights. The situation was grave.

I did not waste time and that very evening last Sunday I pulled my socks up, fired up the plan and made some progress. I gave some proper thought to how the days would flow, what eateries would work best in that flow and added a good number of restaurants to the days when, like some kind of mad man, I had no plans for dinner.

I won’t re-run the whole plan again, nobody wants that, but added now are the likes of 50’s Prime Time Café for one of our DHS days (ADRs permitting of course). This is a place we haven’t done for (I’m guessing) well over a decade and for Tom and Freddie it will be a first time. I feel it is my duty to give them the classic experiences like this, right?

Off site, I have added a trip to Miller’s Ale House. Again, we’ve not been for years and it is one of those solid, no frills, reliable off-site eateries that will make a change from the likes of Applebees and The Outback which have lost our custom due to their lack of or absence of veggie options, which is a shame. Teak of course is now in there too, for dinner on our second day at Universal, as it is up in that neck of the woods and it’ll save a forty minute drive up from the villa.

Outside of eating, I am sitting back and watching the horror show of rumour and misinformation that is the testing requirements for entry to the US. Nearly every post and article seems to contradict the last and for that reason alone I am glad not be heading out any time real soon. Hopefully by the time our turn comes things will be clearer and we will have tales from folks who have been and done it.

As we stand today, as far as I can decipher, for us with both jabs, it is a video supervised or in person test three days before we fly and then the lateral flow within 2 days of getting home. For Freddie, who cannot be vaxxed, he has to do the pre-flight test three days before we fly, then as far as I can make out, is then supposed to do a test within 3-5 days of arriving in the US and then the one 2 days after getting home. Or is that not required for young children? I can’t remember.

That test in the US is the one that seems to be causing all the confusion. Is it mandatory or is it “recommended” as some places say? Is it a lateral flow that you can do unsupervised or do you need a “proper” one done at some pharmacy etc? If anyone has a definitive answer please do share, but I suppose we will find out soon enough when folks start flying tomorrow. I’m not seeing any process for recording that test taken in the US, so if it isn’t being checked then surely it has to be a lateral flow and only recommended?

I’ve also seen snippets of the attestation form that is required to be completed. It looks longer than the documents I signed to move house. Ah well, it is what it is…..

As the trip is becoming increasingly real, I have done other stuff. When we went to Gran Canaria I of course took Ryan with us. Turns out he functions equally well in Spanish. That meant dumping out of him all the US stuff temporarily. One such item was out US Sat Nav. We bought this in 2011 (I think) when we did a trip down to the Keys/Naples/Vero and I didn’t fancy using the force to find things. It has been the best $80 I have spent on US soil. We have used it on every trip since, which only recently brought to mind why no hire car in that time has ever had Sat Nav in it. It could not be, could it, that the hire companies want to upsell us to take a Sat Nav at extra cost?

Anyway, I figured that at least once a decade I should update the maps on this thing. There have been so many road changes around WDW in that time that we stand a fair chance of ending up face to face with a Gator in a lake following the roads that used to be there back in 2011. A little while spent mauling around on the internet and I had the relevant gubbins from Garmin installed. There was a slight false start as it turns out that ten year’s worth of maps was more memory than the device had and I had to invest a few quid in a Micro SD card to go in it. With that installed it took just two hours to get all the right roads in place and it is now safely tucked inside Ryan again, ready for the off.

You know of course with that done, this year’s car will have built in Sat Nav, right?

Later in the week, ADR time happened, for our first day anyway. It’s been so long since “the plan” was first crafted that I cannot remember why we had O’hana as a target on that first day, but I bet it was related to Bread Pudding. Anyway, of course O’hana didn’t make one appearance on our list of choices when I fired up the app to select our dinner plans (it’s tea, but I’ll be posh).

With that plan scuppered, I offered up a few alternatives in the WhatsApp family chat and it took about six seconds for everyone to make their choice from…

The Plaza

Crystal Palace

Whispering Canyon

Can you guess? Yes, we’ll be boarding a boat over to Wilderness Lodge to experience the fun and games there. It is and always has been a firm favourite with us so it was no surprise.

Whether we make it back into the park afterwards will be determined by our tiredness levels and whether we can still walk with full bellies. That first day is always hard to predict, especially for a four year old.

The plan doesn’t require another ADR for a few days, when I will be trying to secure the 50’s Prime Time so I am readying myself for more disappointment.

If I had the ear of the folks who build the app n stuff for Disney I would suggest that it could be more user friendly. Sometimes they way it works is fine, when I just want to see every restaurant that is available on a date and time, but often I know I want a certain restaurant or two, and it would be great to be able to ask the app to show you all the times (if any) those places could accommodate your party, rather than having to keep changing the time and/or date in the vain hope it may come up in the list. I am available for paid consultancy should anyone from WDW be reading this.

It feels odd and very welcome to be back into some form of normal planning routine nonetheless.

So we’ve passed the 60 day countdown marker now and we head into the final straight with only growing cases and deaths forcing a new lockdown to thwart us. What could possibly go wrong?

Till the next time…….

One Day Like This…

Ok, I’ve calmed down a bit now. To be fair to me I did say last week’s post was knee jerk but it doesn’t matter what limb is jerking, I stand by my opinion. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a universal (pardon the pun) condemnation of a Disney change and there have been many over the years.

I also said that the whole thing would get smoothed out and maybe refined. That hasn’t happened yet of course but I stand by that thought too. I’ve watched some more vlogs and feel better that ignoring the whole shit show could be a viable option, especially during the hopefully quieter times in January.

Certainly being very selective in any use of these paid for options will be the order of the trip if we do at all. In effect Disney have removed the three free Fastpasses we used to have and it stinks. Making the best of that means that I may need to up my game in terms of planning our park days and break out some of the strategies honed over the years to get on stuff with the least amount of waiting.

Rather than just piss and moan, whenever Chapek gets a minute to read this here is my suggestion if they absolutely insist on introducing a paid for option. Retain the three free FastPass+ rides that guests can book in advance. Then, if guests wish to upgrade they could pay that $15 per person (or maybe even a little more) to get one FastPass go on all the rides that day.

For now I think the best thing to do is to put it to the back of my mind and focus on the very positive news that we are very close to another Florida adventure and it will be be full of lots of good stuff.

With that in mind let’s trot through the plan as it stands. The thought of getting lots of days filled with fun stuff all in a row is almost unthinkable after the last couple of years. Just one day like these would have been very welcome at any point in that time!

One major change enforced by the park reservation system is that we don’t have many formal rest days planned. Usually we operate on a two days on, one day off scheme but now, having to book your WDW park days, we cannot risk being “locked out” if we plan a rest day but then decide to pop to a park late in the day.

So every day has a park booking of some sort and we will not use/cancel them when we know for sure our plans for that day. Factoring in the weather in January too makes that more of a requirement as rest days typically need to be warm and sunny and January might see some that aren’t and we would need to have a park to visit.

For those who may have missed the details of our flights, and heaven knows there have been many changes over the last couple of years, we have booked with Aer Lingus direct from Manchester. We leave the UK on the 3rd of January at 11am. That fact has still not completely sunk in.

We land around 3pm and have a minivan reserved with Sixt at MCO at a price that could be confused with buying one. I have set up the app to use the Visitor Toll Pass thing. I’m hoping it will save us scrabbling for quarters from the bowels of Ryan after a nine hour flight in a car crammed with suitcases and tired people. We head straight to the villa and depending mostly on Freddie’s tiredness levels we will either order takeout (see I am already mentally in the US) or if he and everyone else is up to it, head out for tea. I haven’t planned anywhere for that meal. Who am I?

There will be a supermarket visit somewhere around this time and some unpacking and then bed.

You’ve been here long enough to know that the first day will be spent at Magic Kingdom. we are very close to ADR day now and I’m hoping to snag one at O’hana for an early tea recognising our body clocks will see us eating lunch at sometime around 10am. If I can’t get that ADR then we might do somewhere in the park or do offsite. We have to save our pennies for going on popular rides now you see!!

Day two is traditionally a rest day. It might be this time. I see Typhoon Lagoon is reopening in December and if temperatures allow we will be there on this day. If not I have a park reservation at Hollywood Studios. Dinner plans are for The Cheesecake Factory.

Day three is Epcot probably trying to get on rides in Future World before heading off site to Bahama Breeze for dinner. One of our absolute favourites.

The next day is Hollywood Studios watching other people get on Rise Of The Resistance. As it stands I have nothing in the plan for dinner. I am suitably ashamed. Let’s see what ADR day brings.

Day five is a Saturday and it’s the weekend of Disney run things so I expect things to be busy. With that in mind I have the closest thing to a rest day on the plan. It starts with breakfast at Hash House a Go Go and then most of the day recovering from that around our villa. I do have an Epcot park reservation if needed and things don’t look too mad.

Animal Kingdom appears on day six for a good old full day of park touring. Dinner of course is at Yak and Yeti.

Monday the 10th of January next and plans are still fairly basic with Magic Kingdom on the cards but again no dinner plans as of yet. Perhaps an ADR at the new Skipper’s place in the park or we will head off site depending how long we stay in the park.

The next two days will be spent at Universal. We have crowbarred this in on the cheap so with no Front of Line we will be theme park commandos for two days getting done what we can get done. Dinner on the first day will be Cowfish and on the second night, we’ll I’m not sure yet.

Day ten sees a park reservation for Hollywood Studios and not much else at this stage. I am wrestling generally with how many in park dining reservations to make or whether we go off site.

Day eleven is Epcot and hopefully Via Napoli for dinner as we wander World Showcase and the following day we are back at Animal Kingdom. We have to pack up and leave the villa the next day so I have dinner at Ford’s Garage as it is very close to our villa so we can head back and get packed.

Next we check in to Coronado Springs for two nights. Weather allowing, the first day I have us around their pool and dinner at Sanaa, ADR permitting.

Then comes our last full day and you know where that will be spent. Magic Kingdom with as yet no dinner plans.

The next day is just full of a huge breakfast and travelling so let’s not think about that yet.

So you can see plans are loose as yet. I have work to do but that can only really happen once we can book dining. The weather is a potential curve ball at all times too. With all the date changes and uncertainty it’s clear my detailed planning has suffered and I need to up my game. I suppose deep down I still can’t believe we are going and it is having an impact.

Hopefully these blogs continue to contain more planning normality and less moaning going forward. We can all but hope.

Till the next time……

Genie Arse

Not too surprisingly this week has been a busy one and a bit of a blur. Work was ridiculous for the first few days, where I found myself in the position of having so much to do I had no idea what to tackle first, next or not at all.

Then on Thursday, Mustard were out gigging at a fairly large corporate do in Manchester. We played at an awards show for the Manchester Society of Architects (I think) at the Albert Halls in Manchester and it was a bit surreal, not least because the likes of James and The Manic Street Preachers have played there and the in house PA system we were able to use was incredible. We had proper sound folk and all sorts looking after us. It was awesome, nerve wracking and weird all at the same time. It went well anyway.

So with all of that and more going on, there has not been too much time for the planning of the WDW trip. I did find time to watch a handful of vlogs around the introduction of the new Genie service and all its chargeable variants.

Now I recognise that the system is still very new and I am sure things will get smoothed out and changed, but, and pardon my knee jerk reaction, what an absolute shambola and piss take the whole thing seems to be. I have always thought that any system that sees people pay more money when the parks and lines are busier is just giving that park the absolute ability to inflate wait times and make more money, but from what I have seen so far, I am absolutely gutted that this horror show has been introduced.

Costs aside for a second (but I will come back to that, don’t worry) getting on a few rides seems to be more complex than a moon landing now. I am fairly tech savvy for an old boomer, and I know the parks inside out. How on earth is someone who isn’t that great with a smartphone, newly arrived in WDW for the first time going to cope? It appears to be massively over complex. Nobody likes a good bit of planning and strategising over a theme park day more than me but I think we have jumped the shark here. When and how you are allowed to pay and book stuff will require full time study for about three months prior to a trip. There will need to be months of planning about your planning. The danger is that first timers may find the whole thing so overwhelming and over complicated that they fail to fall in love with the place like we all did all those years ago, and that will be to Disney’s detriment of course. One of the vloggers I watched already said that they noticed far more phone usage in the parks with Genie in play, which is no surprise as it seems you need the app to schedule your restroom stops. Hang on, that could be a handy feature!!

As for the costs. Just no. Now, I am sure once I am in the parks and in the moment I will succumb to handing over some dollars to get on some things, because it’s a long way to go for us to then not ride some of the headliners, but I will massively resent it and it will and has already tainted my perception of WDW. The huge financial pressure this is going to put on families with smaller kids who are giving them the puppy eyes to get on a ride that costs extra is just heart breaking to think about. This may not be the cash cow Disney think it will be. Families have finite budgets so anything spent on these new extras will surely only come out of any budget that may have gone on merchandise or on-site dining, and guests may now have to do less of both to accommodate these new “essentials”. Or folks will just take fewer trips as the cost of one has escalated so much in this and every other way.

When I apply this new system to our own situation, having already paid literally thousands of dollars to get my party into a WDW park on each day on our trip, if all six of us then wish to ride Rise Of The Resistance with what would have been a free FastPass+ in the past, we would need to pay an extra $90. That could be on top of the other $90 we have already paid that day for the Genie+ thing too. Then, if the only way we can ride, say Remy is to pay again, that would be another $50 or so. If we bought Genie+ and two of the extra special rides for all of us for each day we were in a Disney park on our trip (assuming that is say ten days) we would spend another $2,300. An extra $230 a day, ($40 per person) on top of the ticket price is absolutely crazy and they should be ashamed. I’m sorry, this is just too much money.

I know it’s optional, and I am painting the worst case scenario but when attractions like Rise Of The Resistance have standby lines of two hours almost constantly there isn’t much of an option if you want to ride that. And if you simply can’t afford the extra money you have an inferior experience to those who can.

This feeling that what we all had once for free is now provided at a premium is really the thing that sticks in my throat. I was always that person defending the cost of a WDW trip, pointing at the likes of ROE, Wishes and Fantasmic all provided pretty much nightly, as just one way in which the investment you made in a holiday to Disney was repaid.

They or their replacements are all still there (or soon will be) and they are on the same impressive scale, but this latest cash grab seems to have tipped me over the edge as a result of my own knee jerking.

I remember vividly standing in Galaxy’s Edge for the first time and feeling both blown away and somehow proud that a brand and experience I had long advocated had yet again delivered in such an impressive way. It bolstered my opinion that they always knew what to do and when I handed over my cash they knew how to spend it. That exchange felt fair.

I suspect and fear that if and when I do get on to Rise of the Resistance the whole thing will be soured both by the $90 we have handed over and the feeling that we are being taken for a ride and not in the way we might like.

Again it’s early days and things may settle but there’s a very real prospect that only on-site guests will have any chance to secure a Lightning Lane for this ride. There have long been on site perks which I understand but they need to give all guests a fair chance.

Universal have their own version of all this. We typically pay for the on-site experience when we do go there. The difference is we go to Universal infrequently because of that. That extra cost means we are selective about our visits there and Disney may find this begins to apply to them.

Yes, WDW has always been expensive but I have always felt that the quality, service and limitless entertainment made it good value. This new model feels like it is bordering on a piss take. For the first time it feels like Disney are not on my side. I’m sure they never really were, but at least I felt I was getting good value and a fair shake of the stick for my dollars.

As things settle and improve and maybe they even listen to some of their long standing customers, this all may change, but right now, from what I have seen it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. It seems a move borne out of greed and not to improve the customer experience. Disney seem to have overcooked this massively both in terms of complexity and cost.

I appear to have gone off the deep end on something that when it was announced didn’t really bother or register with me. I suppose that was mainly because at that point I had no expectations of going any time soon. On the plus side, if things keep going as they are in the UK, that may be true once again.

So I shall leave it to Disney to sit in the corner and think about what they have done. They have time to smooth things out and make changes of course, and whatever happens we will hopefully go and have a good trip whenever that time comes regardless of all this nonsense.

For next week I shall ban myself from moaning and as ADR booking time approaches in the coming days we shall focus here on the nicer side of planning and me boring you with a day by day, blow by blow plan for our next American adventure.

Till the next time…..

Wham Bam, Gran Can, Let’s Plan

We are back in the country and I have no clue where to start with this blog post. I’m still in that odd limbo of a post holiday arrival home, anxiously girding my loins for the horrors of work tomorrow.

There will be no trip report. This was the first holiday in two decades where I didn’t make notes about what we did or photograph any food so there can be no detailed tales of what went on.

You wouldn’t want it anyway. Eating, sunbathing, eating and then sleeping repeated many times does not make for an entertaining read to be honest.

I enjoyed the holiday. That said, it does seem that we do one of these types of holiday every twenty years or so just to reconfirm that we’ve been doing the right thing by going to Florida every year. Even Louise has conceded defeat and said that Florida cannot be beaten unless of course we can go on a “beach” holiday to somewhere like The Maldives. Believe me we can’t.

I enjoyed the sunbathing and doing nothing more than I thought I would. I was the one probably most worried about not enjoying that but I think I had the highest tolerance for it. Others were bored of it long before I was.

The All Inclusive element was a blessing and a curse. Of course unlimited drinks helps but the food did get a little repetitive pretty quickly so there was some eating out and extra expense but we enjoyed that of course.

Gran Canaria was nice. At this time of year it was one of a few places with the required heat levels. It looks stunning as it is very “cliffy” (yes that’s absolutely a real word) but that means you can’t really stroll out anywhere as most hotels, like ours, are perched up high and you need transport to get anywhere.

The hotel was lovely with just the odd descent into what I consider to be the worst of these types of holiday which normally involves bingo and some of the worst “entertainment” in the evenings I have ever seen. Honestly some of it defies explanation. It was the lack of options and things “to do” that really hit home how great Florida is for always having options, whether you want the chilled out sun worshipping or full on entertainment filled days and nights. We had it confirmed that it delivers on all levels and it will be another long while until we stray again I think.

I’m not going to get on my soap box here, but something that really struck us was how everywhere and everybody were still doing things to control Covid. Masks are used everywhere without complaint, and overall there are still lots of visible signs that the pandemic isn’t over. Case numbers in Spain are ten times lower than here. I know the testing undertaken is higher here but hospital admissions and deaths see the same ratios. We are headed for a tough winter if we continue with the “do nothing because we did some vaccines” method.

The flights felt like a doddle. Decades of being conditioned to nine hour flights meant the under four hour flights felt like nothing.

Anyway, despite constant illness and injuries including Tom breaking his foot and Freddie getting tonsillitis, it was a nice break. I do plead guilty to thinking about the next holiday whilst on this one but that will not shock you. Before we move on to that next holiday here is a photo dump of the trip just gone.

The main thing that was planned from our sun lounger or more accurately from a chat Louise and I had on our balcony one morning is that we decided we can’t go to Florida and not do Universal. For all kinds of reasons, we do not know when we will get back and Tom and Freddie have yet to experience those parks so we are going to shoe horn it in by making the girls accept their Universal tickets as their present this Christmas. To keep costs down we won’t do an on-site stay and will buy the 2 day, 2 park tickets and do two full on twelve hour days to get as much done as we can. January might lessen the need for the front of the line perks we won’t have, he said hopefully.

Of course the huge news that broke on our last day in Gran Canaria was the announcement of the date when the US will allow us back in. As ever we still await some details around testing requirements and how unvaccinated kids will be dealt with but all that will be resolved before January of course.

Just a note on the level of faff required for the trip we just did. Luckily a lot of the testing requirements were dropped shortly before we left the UK so all we needed to do was the test when we got back home. The passenger locator form was a bit of a faff. As with most government websites and forms it was not the most intuitive thing in the world and a lot of the info they asked for they must surely have from your passport number which they capture on this form, but overall it wasn’t too bad.

The testing is obviously open to abuse. There is nothing to stop someone running the swab under the tap or have someone else do it if they felt they had symptoms. Clearly that is massively irresponsible but impossible to prevent. I wonder how long testing can be a part of international travel. It would be interesting to see the stats on how many actual cases are being found that way.

It almost doesn’t feel real yet that we will actually go on this WDW trip after all this time. We are only seventy odd days out now which adds to the surreal feeling of it all. But now my full attention turns to WDW, as if that is ever not the case. To be honest the day by day plan, aside from exactly where the two freshly added Universal days will fit, is in place. This is because it is roughly the same plan for the trip booked back in 2020.

ADRs open up in a few weeks and that always has the potential to affect the plan so it won’t be close to final until then. Anyway, it just feels so good to be talking with some level of certainty about a trip. You will be delighted to learn that more detail on that plan will be forced upon you here. Try to contain yourselves.

So with one holiday just behind us we are fortunate enough to have another on the horizon. Having holidayed elsewhere and having not seen WDW since mid 2019, I suspect it will feel like coming home more than ever. I am ready!

Till the next time…..

50 (Ab)Cent

Before we begin I need to wish a happy 50th to a close personal friend. I am so sorry I could not be with you at this time, but that decision was taken from me, several times.

From 1980, you have been a constant obsession, drain on my finances and welcome distraction from real life. A source of lovely memories and good times, with hopefully more of both to come. We have both come a long way in those passing years…

Have a great party. We’ll be a bit late, but we’re coming.

On to more immediate matters, sure, I’m going on holiday tomorrow, and yet I have spent nearly all my free time last week thinking about and planning the one after that. What of it? Did you expect anything else?

One sad note on the holiday happening next week. My Mum and Dad were due to come with us to Gran Canaria, but have had to cancel. My Dad is having some leg trouble and doesn’t feel able to get around sufficiently well to enjoy it. This is a real shame and is upsetting for all of us. Fingers crossed he can get it sorted soon.

I have done stuff to prep for the first holiday of course. I dug our suitcase out, and piled all the stuff I needed to take onto the bed next to it. Surely now those things will magically find their way to where they need to be. Money, endless forms, our house and pet sitters, airport parking…I’ve sorted it all, but to be frank I have spent a lot of time and brain space trying to find us accommodation for the last two days of our Florida trip in January.

I reported last week that the DVC folks from whom I rented our points were saying that there was not one DVC room available for our dates, and we need two. Thanks to some helpful folks who read this blog, this lack of availability was confirmed and I have had to be creative. The DVC rental folks are also Disney travel agents so were able to apply my credit note with them to a cash booking. The “value” for that credit note amount was obviously a bit less than it would have been but after several very long chats with them, I have managed to find something suitable.

We will be spending our last two days at Coronado Springs. I still know very little about the place if I am honest, but a couple of vlogs and some online reading tells me it’ll be fine for the short time we need it. We secured it for just under the value of our credit note so it cost me nowt (I’ll tell myself anything). If anyone has knowledge on the resort I would welcome the sharing of it.

With that in place the rest of the plan (of course that means where we will eat) can begin to fall into place. I will of course share that plan with you at a future time once it is a little more firmed up. The next priority was to get the park reservations sorted. By the way, my long held belief that those are here for the foreseeable seems to be correct. That makes my record 1 to 6751 in that regard.

The lack of DVC room availability in January was a slight worry, potentially indicating some higher than usual crowd levels, so I would only feel better when those were sorted. The planets aligned to see our latest set of park tickets arrive on Friday so I spent a small part of Magic Kingdom’s 50th birthday securing our park reservations for January.

As ever, my planning of eateries, the bedrock of any Mkingdon plan, is that eternal quandary of wanting to return to the places we love but also always wanting to find the next one. Usually, the former wins, but if anyone has any humdingers we should try then do feel free to let me know. Our usual list of “greatest hits” goes something like….

  • Teak
  • Bahama Breeze
  • Hash House A Go Go
  • Olive Garden
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Sanaa
  • Cowfish
  • Via Napoli
  • Yak & Yeti

I have Ford’s Garage in for one night when we need to eat close to the villa, and that will be a new one for us. Outback and Applebees have been on that list previously and we love them, but with a vegetarian in our party and their very limited options for them (or they were the last time we went) we have had to look elsewhere.

Of course, us WDW nerds still await the detail around the US border re-opening and what hoops we will need to jump through to get in. Although I did rue the irony of November being the re-opening schedule having booked a different holiday, rather than move our October WDW plans to November, right now, that would have been another stress filled stage of that holiday. I suspect we would have moved it exactly one month, to early November and now all the chat is around when in the month we will be allowed in. I suspect it won’t be the 1st and we would of course have been booked to go the day before we were allowed to. So I guess, in the end things didn’t work out too badly.

Right, I should go. There are things to do. Ryan is prepped and ready. Bless him, he’s only ever been to the US so he’s going to get really confused tomorrow. We have such an early start that I needed to go to bed ten minutes ago. I very much doubt there will be bloggage from the beach whilst we are away so for that everyone can be grateful.

Enjoy your break as I enjoy mine and we shall reconvene in mid October for some proper WDW planning stuff, but this time, with a tan and some certainty.

Till the next time….

Booked It, Packed It 2 – The Return Of The Fat Guy

It won’t surprise anyone reading this to learn that I have a well developed persecution complex. Most weeks, despite living a largely untroubled and privileged life, I can find something to moan about. I often trot out the phrases “you couldn’t write it” or “you couldn’t make it up” to bemoan whatever the latest minor upset might be. However, after what has been a troubled couple of years holiday wise, the events of the last week or so really have been comedic.

Having moved our Florida trip four or five times (I have honestly lost count) when the last cancellation happened I did jettison my toys from the stroller a little and instead of moving it, I cancelled everything. Breaking the habit of a couple of decades, off I went and booked a holiday to another country, crucially nowhere near the US. What could go wrong?

Within a few days of doing so, a volcano in The Canaries that has laid dormant for half a century suddenly became active. Sure, it doesn’t currently seem likely to affect our plans but we don’t know for certain and my head shaking was incessant at the “you couldn’t write it” aspect of this.

Whilst licking those wounds, and lay on the couch Facetiming Rebecca chatting no doubt about our upcoming trip not to America, Emily cried out at some news she had just seen on her phone. I did indeed feel a disturbance in the force.

“The US border is opening in November”. she relayed.

Once that had sunk in after a few seconds, my stomach churned and those special words escaped my lips. “You couldn’t (expletive) write it”.

After a family chat including phrases such as “It is what it is” and “It’s too bloody late and hard now to cancel The Canaries”, I entered into a mild sulk. I did fire up a couple of apps and checked out flight prices to Florida for 2022. Having laughed long and hard at the prices for anything close to summer my mind began to whir.

My inner Verruca Salt kicked in. I told myself things like….

“You work really hard (highly debateable) and deserve the holiday you really want”

“I still haven’t had my 50th trip and I deserve that too”

My mind began to do its work, thinking about when we may be able to get over there. I won’t bore you with all the details, but the logistics of getting six of us (at least) away at the same time, balancing everyone’s work, life plans, other commitments and of course finances is on a par with undertaking a moon landing.

After much analysis and discussion (including Tom persuading his Boss to be very flexible with his holidays) a very small window of opportunity emerged. Flights were checked, research was done, chats were had with the owner of our villa of choice and it was decided.

We are returning to WDW on the 3rd of January 2022.

This would not be our ideal time of year of course. Temperatures will be much lower than we prefer but at this point that does not matter. Again, for reasons I will not trouble you with, if we were not to take this chance, it would be very unlikely we could fit a trip in during 2022 and having not been since mid 2019 this would be very upsetting indeed, indeed probably totally unacceptable.

Appreciating the absolute carnage that is probably ongoing now in the rush for UK tourists to book stuff, I feel quite smug that we have pretty much everything in the bag for prices we can tolerate.

Having had the Aer Lingus refund for several hours, I gave it all back, booking flights with them again. Let’s not dwell on the fact that I could have got a voucher for our flight price plus 10%. This whole thing is already a shit show of incompetence and bad decision making, let’s not make it any worse.

Our villa of choice was thankfully just about available. We will have two days at the end of the trip for which we need to find somewhere to stay as the villa was booked for those. On that note I did think we would use our DVC credit notes (remember those?) to stay somewhere nice on-site to end the trip. Having spoken to the DVC rental company, they tried our dates and there was not one DVC room available on any property in Orlando. What the f…..??

I have no idea what is going on there, as I am not a DVC expert. I am hoping over time things settle down and something does come up that we can use. I am as we speak in “talks” with the folks I have my credit notes with to try and source something suitable.

Having not had our refund from Floridatix of course, and now needing some tickets (I know, I know…) I contacted them. Amazingly they were able to use some of my refund and move that to a brand new booking within minutes, but yet, it looks like I still have another month at least before I may see any sign of monies owed to me. Funny that. These new tickets should arrive any day now so I can do our park reservations….again.

So all of a sudden we have two holidays in close succession and our holidaying budget will be well and truly drained, but after the last couple of years I give not one shit. There is still much to know of course. There has been no formal announcement on the exact date in November when borders will open and what tests will be needed and how kids fit into all of this. By the time our dates roll around I am sure….no, I am hopeful that will all be sorted.

Needless to say I have resumed vlog watching, actively seeking out some from January to see how bloody cold it might be. We have been once before at that time, back in 2005 into 2006 but memories fade over time. I seem to remember the days being fine, but fleeces being required at night. I have a vague memory of buying the girls gloves and woolly hats to watch Fantasmic.

Whatever it is, we shall make the most of it. The reduced heat should make for less weariness and getting more done. We have had to sacrifice Universal which is very upsetting, but the budget just won’t stretch to the extra thousands involved in tickets and an on-site stay. Next time. That cash is sitting now with TUI for our October trip. Water parks will probably also be out of bounds and indeed closed in January? I can’t remember, but we will just go eat instead! Any thoughts of using our DVC credit notes for Vero were scuppered after watching a vlog or two from that time of year, with folks on the beach wrapped up as if they were in Blackpool in Autumn.

Having ignored most of the Genie+/Lightning Lane stuff, hoping it would go away, I am also hoping that in early January, in what historically has been one of the quietest times in the parks, we will not need them. All bets are off I know, post pandemic, and there could be three hour queues for everything, but I’ll take my chances in a more positive frame of mind on that than if we were going next August. I suspect things will take a couple of years at least for crowds and travel patterns to settle again.

So Florida looks to be re-opening for us and normality is returning. On that note I went back into the office for the first time on Friday. It was not something I was looking forward to and all I will say is that it lived up to expectations. It is only right and patriotic of me now though to support our glorious Brexit cause and conserve petrol by not driving to the office again for quite some time. Until of course they work out a way to put all our sovereignty into petrol tanks.

It seems most of my colleagues are on board with this plan already. See the bustling environment I was working in by 9.30 on Friday morning.

Anyway, all that matters is that we have a plan and a countdown and I can now try to use them to block out all the real world shite that is going on. Balance has been restored to the force.

Till the next time…….