Lockdown Life

Thank you for all your comments, messages and well wishes last week. I am much better now. The cough is slowly subsiding and the only remaining symptoms seem to be that I have become 87 and need to be in bed by 9.30. I literally can’t keep my eyes open. The tiredness is real. A walk of the dogs has me spent and breathless so I won’t be posting one of those “inspirational” home workout videos anytime soon.

I’d rate my illness level at about 7 out of 10 compared to all other forms of illness and flus I have experienced. Two days were touching an 8, with most others being a 6 or 7. There appears to be no tangible end in sight for the country as yet and indeed I think the next few weeks will see things get a lot worse before they get better. I am still annoyed and frustrated at the lack of testing and the preparedness of the NHS, but I’m not going to soapbox that here.

Rebecca is recovered but now Tom has the symptoms, which is not surprising. He has had a high temperature and a cough for a few days. I guess it is inevitable that if you put several people in the same house as someone who has symptoms, they will too.

Having said that, neither Emily or Louise have had any tangible signs of the virus. Louise has had a feeling of a temperature from time to time, but nothing she would consider out of the ordinary. She is, like many, convinced she had the thing about three weeks before I did, as she had a week of struggling to breathe with a terrible chest. Hopefully, an antibody test will be available to soon to give us all a clue.

As weird as things currently are, I have to say, I am not yet missing the commute. I’m sure as the weeks and months go by I will yearn for my usual three hours a day in the car, but right now, my work-life balance actually exists and I feel less “murdery” after a day’s work and the drive home.

We’ve been occupying ourselves as best we can. My daily dog walk is now something to look forward to, rather than a chore I used to dread. That is for two reasons. Firstly, it’s my one time out of the house every day and a token nod towards any form of exercise and secondly, I usually walk the dogs after my commute home and recently in sub-zero temperatures and sideways rain, so the better weather and lack of the drive home has improved the task no end.

We have been watching a lot of stuff of course and if you aren’t yet watching The Imagineering Story on Disney+ I can’t help you. That is right in my sweet spot and ticks all of my Disney geek boxes. It has also, if possible, elevated Roy Disney to a new level of hero status in our household. He never gets the credit he deserves, other than from Emily, who cried last night when his management of the Magic Kingdom construction and subsequent death was covered.

It was Louise’s birthday yesterday. Obviously, it was a strange one but hopefully, we made it as nice as it could be in the circumstances. There was a lot of relaxing, a Zoom quiz in the evening hosted by my brother and sister-in-law and a huge amount of takeaway Indian food. In a gesture of huge irony, I had a couple of Coronas.

Rebecca’s wedding is now pretty much re-arranged for early July. All the suppliers were able to move with us apart from the DJ who we will need to replace, and all we can do now is hope that by that time wedding venues are open and we have some sort of ability to go out of the house again.

These are very strange times and right at the bottom of every list of priorities are upcoming holidays. I have no idea if the world will have returned to any form of normality by late August or indeed if the airline industry will still exist, but all I can do is this….

and try to pretend that everything will be fine by then. Of course, should the gimp in the White House get his way, the US will be re-opened at Easter and annihilated by June, which would render our trip null and void.

In the spirit of trying to keep some sense of normality in these weird times, I have continued to book our ADRs, and I’ll share here how we’ve done, knowing all the while that they may not happen at all. I don’t know if talking about something as trivial as where we might eat is appropriate with everything going on, so if you aren’t in the right place to read that sort of stuff, now’s the time to pull the ripcord.

Overall, we did OK and got what we wanted. The major changes are around my actual birthday with California Grill not offering any times that worked for us, but in a way, it may have worked out for the best. I’ll come to that shortly.

Our first ADR is for our first day fittingly enough. We are being bold and assuming that at the end of the magical first day in Magic Kingdom we will be awake enough to do Ohana. I have booked it nice and early at 5.35, so we should be able to make it that far. Should we really be “on it” who knows we may spend some time down on the beach after dinner watching the sunset. It’s funny how simple things like this sound so appealing right now.

We are eating off-site for the next few days at the likes of Teak Neighbourhood Grill and Bahama Breeze before going to one of our traditional regulars at Animal Kingdom on day five. Yak & Yeti, at an OAP-tastic early hour of 4.30, is booked. We might do Rivers of Light, or we may not. This is just part of my flexible, devil may care approach to trip planning.

This brings us to day six and my birthday. So the original plan was to have a character breakfast, do some World Showcase and then have dinner at California Grill, ending with a balcony viewing of the fireworks. The breakfast was straight forward. Cape May Cafe is secured, with the added bonus of facilitating parking at the Beach Club rather than Epcot’s main car park. However, California Grill was only offering times that wouldn’t work with our plans. Neither 5.30 or 9.30 suited us. A 5.30 reservation would mean us having to head back to the villa around 3pm to allow for showers and makeup with me sat on the couch waiting for everyone to get ready. This is not how I wish to spend my birthday. The later 9.30 slot would be too late for Freddie.

This forced a bit of a re-think of the whole day, and whilst not having the “glamour” of Cali Grill, in a way I feel better about the new plan. It’s a traditional one and due to that is tried and tested.

Breakfast remains at Cape May Cafe at 10am. We shall then wander into Epcot just after World Showcase opens and spend a relaxed day touring the pavilions. Rather than then leave the park and waste a large part of the day driving and waiting for folks to get ready, we shall remain in Epcot, with dinner now booked for La Hacienda de San Angel at 7.30. We ate there for my birthday the year before last and really enjoyed it. Hopefully, we can secure a table seat again and we can play it by ear whether we watch the fireworks from the restaurant or find a spot outside.

The idea is that we have a day without too much queuing or stressing about getting on stuff or the logistics of being places at set times and just enjoy being in one of my favourite bits of the planet.

We are then at Univeral for the next few days, so there is no need for ADR bookings. We return with a bang on day 11 with a booking at Sanaa for all of the breads. I’ve gone for 6pm, hoping to get there a little early, see some animals and then eat.

Day 12 saw another ADR failure I’m sad to say. Homecoming was the ambition, but the only slots were late in the evening so again, I have simplified things, and kept us in the park of the day rather than travelling out to eat.

After a break of what must be almost twenty years, we are returning to the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom as that is where we are spending the day. Freddie was very much in my thoughts as I think he will love it. It also gives us another shot at Rivers of Light if we haven’t done it at this point.

Day 13 sees us back at Epcot and an ADR for what is becoming a regular and a firm favourite. Via Napoli is booked for some fine pizza at 6.40. Hopefully, we shall emerge from the experience feeling overly full into the glorious embrace of World Showcase at dusk.

With that, we are done. The remaining days are scheduled to be off-site eateries and then we come home, assuming we actually get to go in the first place.

Of course, current uncertainty is robbing us planners of much of the joy of the build up to the trip. It is a problem that deserves hardly a mention or consideration in the context of what is going on, but, it’s OK to be a little sad about it. We have the capacity to be sad about multiple things at the same time on many different levels. If reading this nonsense distracts you from the proper stuff for a few minutes then that’s good.

I don’t wish to add to anyone’s woes, and I’m not saying the world is ending, but it appears to be snowing at the moment here in Bolton, at the end of March…….

Till the next time…….

The Andrex Apocalypse

There is, of course, only one topic that I could blog about this week. It’s one of those situations where any other topic would be ridiculous and yet I am neither qualified or grown-up enough to write about it. In a situation that if it appeared in a film, might get dismissed as unbelievable, the world seems to be making its way to the hot place in a hand cart.

Working life has been dominated by the C-word all week. Every meeting inevitably comes around to the one subject, planning for worst-case scenarios and wondering if and when it will be the right time to have everyone work from home. For me, it is always the right time to work from home, but money still needs to be made and business needs to carry on, as much as it can. However, I think it is now just a matter of time until those that can, do.

As the working week drew to a close the bombshell dropped that Disney parks were closing around the world. It makes absolute sense really as if you were to design the perfect method of spreading a virus, a few hundred thousand folks crammed into theme parks in a tropical climate would be right up there at the top of the ideal scenario list.

I know that there are many more important issues linked to this virus, but that is a tangible benchmark as to how serious this stuff is getting. These parks only close when they absolutely need to. My heart breaks for those who have spent large amounts of cash and time preparing for their WDW trip only to find the parks closed for the rest of March at least. In the scheme of things, a ruined holiday is nothing and may seem even more insignificant as this thing escalates, but people are absolutely allowed to be upset.

I was particularly upset to hear the College Programme was cancelled and all the kids sent home. That would be heart breaking for all those who worked so hard to earn their place on that.

Of course, these are all the very definition of first world problems and goes to show how much of a cosy and untroubled existence most of us normally lead. Shit, as they say, is about to get real, and life as we know it will have to go on hold.

Our own personal concerns beyond the health of our family members include Rebecca’s wedding at the end of May, which I guess is at risk currently only as we just don’t know how things will play out over the coming weeks. Of course, we also have our WDW trip at the end of August, which, we’d have to hope will be OK, but with Trump at the helm over the pond, who can really know how the land will lie then.

So a global recession, a pandemic claiming thousands of lives and a toilet roll shortage lie ahead. You never see The Walking Dead address the issue of a lack of means to wipe your arse, do you?

To those of you who work in healthcare, I wish you nothing but good luck, good health and endless gratitude. This is going to be a testing time as if your normal duties are anything but!

Whilst this infection for most of us would, it seems. only mean mild symptoms, I wish you all the luck in the world in avoiding it but more importantly, look out for your elderly relatives and friends. It’s going to be an impossible balance between staying away so as not to potentially infect them and looking after them in what could be a lengthy lockdown.

On a lighter subject, it’s likely to be a few weeks or months of film and box set binging so do let me have your favourites. There may be little else to do for a while. I’ll also be up for your vlogger suggestions, but as you know my tolerance for those is fairly limited so they have to be top-notch. 🙂

Stay safe, stay sane and let’s try to get through this the best we can.

Till the next time…..

Bad Things Happen To Good Places

Bad weeks happen all the time, all over the world, to varying degrees. Even the places that are supposed to be the happiest on earth have them too.

Whilst you all had a great week last week as I did not blog, the place that is never supposed to have bad things happen suffered a bit recently.

Safety whilst in the parks is not something that ever crosses my mind to be honest, but it just goes to show that even the most perfect of places can have an off day or three. In recent times WDW has been in the wars.

It started with the sinking of a Jungle Cruise boat a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know how long that ride has been around and it’s not even worth googling. It’s been a long time and as far as I know incident free. So I suppose the law of averages state that something was bound to happen at sometime. Thankfully of course nobody was hurt apart from some moistness and mild shock.

Then just days afterwards , there were reports of two people mover trams “slamming into each other”. Now, slam may be an over exaggeration knowing the speed these things travel at, but I can bet it wasn’t pleasant.

With photo credit to @wrightculpepper on Twitter you can see the evacuation taking place after the event. Again, if you had to pick two of the safest rides in WDW, Jungle Cruise and People Mover would be up there I suppose, but to quote the greatest philosophers of our time, shit happens. Of course, there was also a very public issue with the new gondola system shortly after go-live which after all the testing we saw happening for such an extended period was very shocking.

So those relatively minor incidents in quick succession were oddly out of place with what to the casual observer may seem like a fairly blemish-free accident record. I’m sure that’s not the case and you don’t have to spend too long on google to see rumours and reports of lots of other accidents and incidents.

One of the most quoted rumours about WDW is that “nobody dies on WDW property”. We’ve all heard the tales of folks passing away but not being declared so until they are safely away from WDW. I don’t know if that were ever true but putting those two minor bumps into sharp insignificance was the horrendous news out of the Contemporary Resort where it appears someone committed suicide by jumping from the building. That is just horrific in every way and it shows even in places like WDW people can do the darkest and most tragic of things.

It feels a bit grubby even writing about it so I won’t share any links etc, as I’m sure you all saw the news anyway, and I apologise for inflicting such horridness on your Sunday, but I guess sometimes, real life is like that and not even WDW can help.

My thoughts are with the poor woman and her family and anyone else who was involved in that horrible situation.

There’s no jovial coming back from that, so I won’t attempt any light-hearted sign-off. I know this is supposed to be a place of trivial nonsense, and it nearly always is but that struck a chord with me, being the most tragic of events against the “happiest” of backgrounds.

If anyone is struggling, as we all do from time to time, then please use the help that exists.

Till the next time…….

A Bob Iger Come and Get Me Plea….

I have often suspected the senior leadership team at Disney sit poised to read my weekly blog. Having just last Sunday laid out my own personal gripes in great details about the FastPass tiers, specifically at Hollywood Studios, I was pleased, but not too surprised to see them take my thoughts to heart and change things up.

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway has been added to the top tier of FastPasses at Hollywood Studios. Coincidence? I think not. There may come a point when I need to start invoicing them for my consultancy services.

With three rides now in that tier that can only help to spread the demand out and make it even easier for us to fail in getting one for the two we really now want and begrudgingly settle for one for Slinky Dog.

In terms of career aspirations, I don’t harbour too many any more other than for a better commute and enough money to fund further trips to WDW, but if I could be one of those folks you see wandering around the parks in slacks, a remarkably non-sweaty shirt and an earpiece, then yes a position somewhere within Disney management would appeal. Imagine going to work every day to do something you are truly passionate about. The downside would be that if we did live in Florida I would need to be winched out of my front room within 12 months of our arrival as the smorgasbord of culinary delights on offer would see me behave like some sort of adult Augustus Gloop in a place where everything is seemingly is edible and either covered in Cinnamon or double Cinnamon.

This new railway ride opens in March. Demonstrating once again why this isn’t a blog you should rely on for up to the minute Disney news, I have no clue what this ride is. There are no height restrictions which is good for a party like ours with a Freddie in tow, so it won’t be rivalling Rock n Rollercoaster for thrills, but these family “everyone can join in” rides are for me, really important for WDW. I believe that the whole idea for the parks came from Walt having to sit and watch his daughter’s go on fairground rides without him. There are times when you do want a G force laden thrill a minute ride, but there is equal joy, perhaps more, in watching the face of the younger members of your party experience rides that everyone can do together.

On better Disney blogs than this one I’m also seeing rumours of Disney abolishing free FastPasses and the ability to book them ahead of time. That, to me sounds like a very bad idea. Not only do I not want to pay more for what I now get for free, but Disney must surely realise that the complex planning that a lot of WDW visitors do months in advance is very much part of the trip. The rumour is that you would only be able to buy FastPass privileges on the day and then I guess see what you can get.

That way carnage lies. A trip to WDW is already VERY expensive and no doubt by the time we get back there it’ll be costing somewhere close to $100 to park for the day, so charging for FastPasses as Universal does for off-site guests would be a very unpopular move in my view. Hopefully, it holds as much water as most WDW related rumours do and this never comes to pass.

Knowing as I do that all the top Disney execs read this, here’s my advice –

  • Leave the FastPass system alone
  • Stop increasing parking costs every few weeks
  • You need to either build a fifth park or undertake some major expansion to one or two of the others.

I say the last point as the continual addition of new resorts and rooms means they are pumping more and more guests into parks that have a finite capacity. Sure, there are new rides and lands, but the real estate they are in is pretty much what it always was. There are no longer any real quiet periods at WDW now, with Disney doing a fantastic job of inventing seemingly endless events and festivals to get people in.

This is good, as it gives them higher revenues which to their credit they then re-invest into the parks, but we’re coming to a point now where people will stay away if the very crowded scenes that happen at peak times continue. There’s little to no fun in that scenario.

Now, I do know that in December 2019 Disney bought 235 acres of land just west of Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course.

In January 2019, Disney also bought 1,575 acres for $11 million in Osceola County and before that, it bought 965 acres for $23 million from nearby B-K Ranch in December 2018.

Disney has made no announcements about potential uses for the land, but it is located near other Disney golf courses. It would be an anti-climax if all that land was for golf, as much as I do like a round of that in Florida.

With Universal launching a new park in, I think 2023, it is usual for Disney to respond so I’m hopeful we get that long-awaited “fifth gate”. For as long as I can remember, a Villains Park has been rumoured. I think to be honest that rumour has just been a product of internet speculation and it may be more likely that another land is added to Magic Kingdom in that theme, as that to me would work well.

The worst-case scenario could be that they just use this newly purchased land to build more resorts. That would just compound the issues in the parks now. It’s almost as if I’m suggesting that some idiot from Bolton knows more about the workings of an organisation than those who run it.

So Bob Iger and the lovely Disney execs. I am available for consultancy and/or full-time employment at competitive rates and will take partial payment in food.

Till the next time…..

FastPass Tiers and Tears

As we endured the 74th week of January last week, I was pleased to see it whizz by quite quickly. Work was busy, and so that hecticness stole away some more hours of my life I’ll never get back. As I hurtle towards my half century I have come to the realisation that most of my life now seems to be spent either communting or recycling.

In the whirl of normal life, I remember seeing some news that the FastPass+ tiers have been amended at Hollywood Studios. That was pleasing but you have to remember that it usually doesn’t affect us as our account on My Disney Experience has been blacklisted for all the rides everyone wants FastPasses for.

You may remember me from such films as “Flights Of Passage? Are You Having A Laugh?” and “Slinky Dog? I Should Cocoa!”. But, like Charlie Brown, once again trying to kick the football as Lucy holds it, I’ll be there on the relevant days going through the motions anyway just to fail spectacularly.

It’s a Safari FastPass for you!

Sumggler’s Run has now been opened up to FastPass bookings which is nice. That and Slinky are grouped together so I suppose the upside is that we may finally stand half a chance of getting one for Slinky Dog. We did ride it last year, but to date have not been anywhere close to a FastPass.

At this rate, we’ll be easily snagging FastPasses for Rise Of The Resistance when we go for Freddie’s 18th birthday. It is the theme park version of the circle of life. I’m old enough to remember rides like Test Track and Soarin’, being THE ride to get a FastPass for. It was only five minutes ago that I was dad jogging all the way through Animal Kingdom to get an old fashioned paper FastPass for the Safari as that was the headliner at the time. These things come and go and if you are mature and sensible you’ll realise that and not spend your Sunday morning pissing and moaning about it in a blog post.

For anyone who missed it –

Tier 1 will include: Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Slinky Dog Dash. Guests will be able to pre-select one of these attractions as a FastPass+ reservation in advance of their visit to the park.

Tier 2 will include: Toy Story Mania!, Alien Swirling Saucers, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Disney Junior Dance Party!, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Muppet*Vision 3D, Fantasmic!, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage. Guests will be able to pre-select two of these attractions as a FastPass+ reservation in advance of their visit to the park.

So Tier 1 is going to be a bit competitive isn’t it? Not for us of course. We’ll just end up with the dregs, but it won’t affect me and I won’t go on about it endlessly.

We are 205 days out now. It won’t be long until we can begin the ADR process and we have a few to do this time. Disney are smart in allowing ADRs 180 days out. It makes the upcoming trip exciting earlier and for longer, having to imagine what and where you want to eat several months out. Then after me moaning about not being able to get some of them at the time or day I want them, a few months later I can do it all again because I can’t get onto a theme park ride without queuing.

Anyway, there’s no planning I can do right now, so I am away to tick off my list of Sunday chores. It’s amazing how upon opening my eyes on a weekend morning I can see a full day of nothing laid out in front of me and within moments it becomes filled with stuff that “need” to be tackled and tackle I must.

See you back here next week for more upneat musings and moaning.

Till the next time……

Planning By The People

There are times when I and certainly you may wonder, what is the point of these blogs each week. There will be several different answers to that question, many of which I wouldn’t want to share here, but one of the reasons was borne out last week.

Despite this blog being, I suppose, some sort of Disney blog, I never profess to be an expert and I’m certainly never up to the minute on all the stuff that’s going on. It’s a Disney blog, sometimes, by theme, audience and intent more than design. With that in mind, it is always useful to get the often more expert views of those hardy fools who persist in reading these posts.

When I lay out my plans for our next trip as I did last week I can always guarantee that I will get some feedback that will change my thinking and often the plans themselves. Last week was no different.

It’s funny how some eateries emerge from the pack at certain times as “the one” getting the buzz and reccomendations. The name just seems to crop up in conversations, blogs, vlogs and exchanges between like minded Disney foodies. That’s how we’ve discovered many of our favourites over the years. This time it is Rock and Brews. It got two or three seperate mentions from different folks as a place we should consider.

It may be sacriledge, but one of our all time traditional absolute rock solid eateries, Applebees, was wavering on the cusp of the plan. It has done nothing wrong, other than not cater especially well for vegetarians and with our group now including one, it has become a consideration.

With that in mind, a change has been made, and instead of our Applebees pilgrimage we are now going to try somewhere new in the shape of Rock and Brews.

If like me you’d never heard of it until about now, then the menu is here. Now, I don’t think it’s breaking any new ground in the culinary experience but that’s no bad thing. The menu looks interesting enough, with a decent nod to non meat eaters and it is local to our villa so fits nicely into our plans as an Applebees alternate without us changing our direction of travel.

The other joy from last week’s post came via Twitter from SchmeichelJFox .

We’ve both ignored our football incompatability enough over the years to follow each other on Twitter and this paid dividends when he slid into my DMs this week.

Apparently guests staying at the Hard Rock Hotel are allowed to enjoy the pools and facilities at Portofino Bay. As my DM read….

“Last time we stayed at Hard Rock (love it) we found out we can use all the facilities in Portofino Bay. They have quite a few pools to check out – one with an amazing bistro and waterfall that’s great for a chilled afternoon (more chilled than Hard Rock and a little more room to play with the kids). Also, the bay itself is a great place for ice cream and a beer watching all the boats and singers who come into the square…. We always had a pre city walk beer or two at the thirsty fish in the bay of the hotel in its “square”. A lovely way to maximise the value from your Hard Rock purchase. We were quite shocked how much was available at this hotel so far away from the parks and city walk.”

Now, I’m not sure my then 25 and 23-year-old kids will be wanting to play with me in the pool, but Freddie might. But more crucially, we are always on the lookout for stuff like this. This sort of venue sounds perfect for a just showered, slightly sunburned pre or post-dinner chilled out drinkie and so this sounds right up our street. Our time at Hard Rock is limited but we shall be trying our best to avail ourselves of that and maybe the pool option too should the Hard Rock be a little too “Magaluf” as it can get at times.

So all my planning last week was done by others. This was handy as work was inconveniently busy and it was a Mustard heavy week too. We had no gig, but we took the chance to slot in a rehearsal to get some new songs into the repertoire which take some time for my ageing brain and limited ability to soak in.

We also released a video. Yeh, I know!

Sometime in early December, we spent a cold, yet interesting and enjoyable Sunday in a local rehearsal room being filmed not actually playing some of our songs. Thankfully, the unwritten rule of the music world is that bass players cannot feature in more than 1% of the footage used and for that, I have to be honest, I am thankful.

The chap who did this for us has performed a “silk purse/sow’s ear” standard of miracle making five middle-aged blokes slightly beyond their best look almost acceptable. Now, that’s talent.

Should anyone require the services of a great band for a special occasion, then Mustard may be for you.

I will leave you with that pop perfection and see you back here next week when hopefully you have all improved my holiday plans again. You know it makes sense.

Till the next time……

Man With A Plan

OK, so we’ve done the Christmas, New Year and the moany back to work posts. Waistline aside, things are back to normal and so, with barely a mention so far of our new and exiting WDW plans for my 50th, it is well overdue that I drag you kicking and screaming through a day by day account of the plan as it currently stands.

I’ll be honest, it’s probably much more complete and finalised than even I imagined at this stage. In fact, moments after confirming the dates and flights, the day by day template was filled in and if it changes significantly between now and August I’ll be astounded. It would appear, that shockingly, I’m quite good at this now. Still, that won’t stop me obsessing over it at regular intervals and adding extra, unneccsary expense to it as we go. It’s what I do.

Last year was a “cheap as chips” we shouldn’t be going affair so we held back on the ADRs and on-site dining. There are no such restrictions this time around so you will notice much more going on in that regard.

Day One

We fly on August 26th from Manchester with Virgin. We are bubbling as we enjoyed that so much the last time we flew with Virgin. I’m pleased to say we take off (around) 10am (no plane has ever left the tarmac on time in the history of mankind) and land at a very sociable 2pm at MCO. We didn’t enjoy the later flight times last year as it meant getting into Orlando at 7pm, and by the time we’d got to the villa there was no time to go out and eat. See where our priorities lie?

I’ve hired an overly extravagant car from Dollar. I have shunned the mundane mini-van for some sort of monster truck equivalent that will take up three parking spots wherever we go. I’m only 50 once, if at all.

We will be picking that up and leaving the airport more quickly than the It’s Orlando Time group left Facebook, but under less suspicious circumstances.

Our villa is a doozy, again an absolute extravagance, near Formosa Gardens. We should be there some time around 4pm, and after a little unpacking and a trip to the supermarket, taking our seats at the Outback Steakhouse as tradituon dictates some time around 9pm UK time.

Day Two

If you don’t know by now that our first day is spent at Magic Kingdom, I can’t help you. With a more civilised arrival time on day one, we should be fed and in bed by a sensible time, meaning we are fully rested for day two and a full day in the park. The plan is to last until late afternoon/early evening and then go to the Polynesian for our (hopeful) ADR at O’hana.

Day Three

Traditionally a rest day but in recent times we have chosen to spend it in a water park. This works well as those who want to can rest up and those who get bored after an hour around the villa pool can go off and risk life and limb on the slides and stuff.

We are going in strong from the start food wise with a trip to Teak Neighbourhood Grill planned for our evening meal.

Day Four

Hollywood Studios today. Hopefully Rise of the Resistance has calmed down a bit and we won’t need to be outside the park gates at 6am. I can say with some certaintity that whether it has calmed down or not, we won’t be doing that!

Again, like some dining greatest hits collection, another firm favourite for many years is on the plan for tonight, at Bahama Breeze.

Day Five

Animal Kingdom. We didn’t see Rivers Of Light last year, mainly due to time pressure but also because we suspected Freddie wouldn’t sit through it. With another 12 months under his belt he might so we’ll try to give it a go.

The hits keep on coming with Yak and Yeti for dinner (by that I mean tea but I’m aware people south of Birmingham read this).

Day Six

As tends to happen every year, this will be my birthday. It’s a big one, and not only does it mark my passing into my 50’s and no doubt another pants size, it also marks the 40th anniversary of my first ever trip to Florida. I spent my 10th birthday in Miami all those years ago, and look what’s happened since! We drove up to Orlando for just two days at what was only the Magic Kingdom then. It was clearly enough to create the monster I now am.

Epcot of course. You knew that, but we are cramming more food than is wise into the day with a character breakfast ADR at Cape May (we can then park at the Yacht & Beach), a wander around World Showcase and then probably back to the villa to get something vaguely presentable on. That’s because I am hopeful of securing an ADR at California Grill, followed by a re-mortgage and a viewing of the fireworks from the viewing deck.

Day Seven

Something new today. We are doing a few days at Universal, and the first part of that will be to give the “new” water park Volcano Bay a go. I need to do some proper research and vlog watching on this as I have very little clue as to what goes on there and the best way to tackle it, but, again it serves as a rest day after the excesses of yesterday’s celebrations and a chance for the more adventurous members of the group (Tom) to go and play.

To keep that theme going, for dinner we are going to try the Ford’s Garage place on the 192 for the first time. If you’ve been and think we shouldn’t, now is the time to tell me.

Day Eight

So now we start our holiday within a holiday and check into the Hard Rock at Universal. This is one of our most favourite places in Orlando and despite probably only needing one night to get the required front of line passes to complete both parks, we’re doing two. It gives us more chance to experience the parks, especially as it is Tom and Freddie’s first time and hopefully rest around the pool.

We will start in Islands of Adventure today.

It also opens up some of the excellent dining options on City Walk and we HAVE to do Cowfish as the Cheeseburgerooshi is the most delicious thing on the planet and that’s where we will head on this evening. Toothsome for dessert may be an option or perhaps Voodoo Doughnut’s taken back the room for an orgy of excess.

Day Nine

Universal Studios today, with perhaps some pool time followed by a meal at Antojitos, which is a Mexican most of us have never tried but Emily recommended it after eating there during her CRP stint.

Day Ten

We checkout from the Hard Rock but of course sill have front of line access so we will park hop and re-do anything we want to. Once we’re done we will head back towards the villa and eat at Applebees on the 192.

Day Eleven

All I have so far for this day are food plans. They are BIG food plans, and I’m sure we will fit something inbetween them, but after three park days, some relaxed down time filled with calories will no doubt be required.

Breakfast/Brunch will be at the excellent Hash House a Go Go. Several hours of moaning and swearing that we’ll never eat again will be followed by dinner at Sanaa at Kidani Village where there will be literal fist fights over the bread service. We all do like us some bread. Hopefully we’ll also be able to show Freddie some of the animals wandering about out the back.

Day Twelve

Back to Animal Kingdom today. We loved our light lunch at Tiffin’s last time out so we may wander back there for cocktails and food around lunchtime. With that in mind, I just have Homecoming at Disney Springs in my plans for dinner, as that is known for it’s light, healthy menu!

Day Thirteen

Our second day at Epcot. It feels late on day 13, but that’s how things work out sometimes. Tonight will be our chance to watch whatever they have seen fit to replace Illumnations with. No pressure.

With that in mind, we will return to Via Napoli as we have loved it on our past two visits.

Day Fourteen

As we will have 14 day tickets for all the Universal stuff I have pencilled in a return today. We won’t have front of line of course, but we can have a more leisurely wander and ride anything that doesn’t have horrible wait times. By this time in the trip, we will be well into September, past Labor Day and hopefully, there will be sufficiently low crowds to make this worthwhile.

Our dining option of choice tonight is Cheesecake Factory. This is another awesome eatery and we were all gutted not to be able to fit this in last year.

Day Fifteen

We are lucky enough this year, due to my 50th splurge, to be staying a little longer. We return to Hollywood Studios today with little more planned than that. Olive Garden is pencilled in as our eatery.

Day Sixteen

Our last full day is of course spent at Magic Kingdom. Last year we popped out to eat off-site at Romano’s Macaroni Grill and were delighted we did. We hadn’t been for a few years but if you haven’t been, you must. With that in mind, it is planned to do the same this year, but if other events take our fancy we may do those instead. Who said I was a planning obsessed overweight ball sack?

Day Seventeen

Travel. Enough said. We’ll do a huge breakfast somewhere and then fly home after buying gifts for people who have hundreds of Disney gifts already.

The only positive about today is that I managed to get us into Premium for less than economy so we may get some comfort/sleep on the way home.

So there you go. I’m tired after typing that out so who knows how we will cope with the real thing.

If you have any advice or suggestions on new places to eat that we should do instead of returning to past favourites I’ll be all ears.

Till the next time…….