The “Why’s It Taking Long” Tour 2022 – Day Sixteen

So it’s Tuesday January 18th now. The holiday is on its last legs and I now get to document that tricky travel home day. It shouldn’t take long.

I awoke at 7am, probably the latest I had slept all holiday. Alanis Morrissette has a song all about that. I did want to go back to sleep but could not, so instead, I checked us in for our flight home and rested in bed until about 8.30.

I showered, dressed and finished the packing with Emily up and about around 9am. With precision timing we walked out of the room at 10.58 no doubt much to the disappointment of the housekeeping staff. We met Rebecca, Tom and Freddie at the car and somehow got all the luggage to fit with room left for us all to sit down.

The first order of business was gas. With all the food we’d been eating it wasn’t that shocking, but I also needed to get some petrol into the car. I don’t know why but I detest filling the car up and last night had ignored the low fuel light which I now regretted as I had no idea if what we had left would get us to a gas station.

I fired up the in car sat nav and searched for gas stations, setting off to the nearest one which looked to be just a few minutes away. That journey was fraught but it looked like we were going to make it. As we approached our destination there was a distinct lack of gas station where the sat nav said there should be one. I swore quite a lot.

Cursing the in car sat nav and the relatives of everyone who was involved in its construction, we headed for another, a worrying distance away. We ended up down on the 192 and for the second time arrived at a piece of land that should contain a gas station but did not. Abandoning technology in favour of my eyes, I spotted one over the road and with everything crossed that the fumes in the tank would get us there, I headed that way.

We made it, I filled up and reflected on a needlessly stressful start to the day.

With that pressing need satisfied, we moved on to the next one which was of course food. I pointed the car towards Lake Buena Vista and another visit to The Cheesecake Factory. It took twenty minutes to battle a busy I4. We arrived at 12.05 and it was surprisingly busy for that time on a Tuesday. We were seated immediately though.

We of course started with Nachos.

Nachos are probably one of Louise’s favourite things on the planet and as if she had sensed their presence from across the Atlantic she called just as they arrived with absolutely no consideration for us being hungry.

I sneakily passed the phone to Emily so I could eat.

We were also presented with a lovely bread service. It didn’t last long enough to be photographed.

Freddie ordered Chicken Strips

With apparently much improved camera skills, Rebecca and I had the Fried Chicken Sandwich.

They did not persist for Tom’s Chicken and Avocado Sandwich.

Emily had the Impossible Burger.

Again, everything was superb.

As we were just finishing our meals, Rebecca cried out in pain, complaining of very strong shooting pains in her stomach. I briefly had visions of missed flights, hospitals and a grandchild born in the US, but thankfully, they passed before desserts arrived, as I was not missing my cheesecake for anything!

Emily and I shared a Tiramisu one.

The bill was $164 and I somehow expertly managed to spend every last dollar on my Caxton card. It’s a life skill.

Unavoidably we now had to head to the airport. We stopped at a nearby bin to dump all the “trash” accumulated in the car and then set the sat nav for MCO. Knowing this sat nav we would be in Key West by sun down.

We arrived at the airport safely and the car drop off was very simple. We also dropped off our toll tag thing which had worked a treat. Our bag drop experience was probably the easiest ever with no queue at all.

Security is always grim at MCO and it looked to be horrific, but once we had been through the passport check, we were through in fifteen minutes or so. We monorailed to the gate and found some seats. The queue for a Starbucks was worse than security but we got one eventually.

An announcement that boarding was starting at 4.30 was made, which was odd as we were not due to take off until around 6pm. We got to the gate and were surprised to be allowed on immediately with no queue at all. Once we were on the plane we realised why. The thing was empty. I would say there were twenty people on the flight.

Boarding was complete by 5pm and we were airborne by 5.30. This is the time you really just want to be home, but for me, this time, even more so even though I was dreading work and the scales.

The prospect of the cold, grey UK is never one I relish but clearly, this time, none of that mattered and I just needed to be home.

The flight (pardon the pun) flew by. This was easily the quickest and most pleasant journey home we have ever had. We all spread out of course, so had loads of room which made the whole thing very, very tolerable.

Despite still being full from our lunch, I demolished the food provided and soon enough we were on the ground in Manchester. Nothing of note happened on our arrival. Immigration was OK and our bags appeared fairly quickly as there weren’t many on the flight at all.

We drove home to find Louise had locked us out by putting the security bar on the front door so we had to knock her out of bed. We were home.

I have shared a lot of (negative) thoughts throughout the trip already, so there’s not a lot left to say here, however that probably won’t stop me doing so. I have to add for balance that real life, since returning has been stressful, odd, worrying and busy and this may have impacted upon my writing style/mood too. Because it has taken so long to write this thing, at times I honestly couldn’t remember how we really felt beyond the brief notes I made too, so perhaps I have done the odd disservice here and there.

We did enjoy lots of the trip of course and we will look back on it with fondness in the future I am sure, but it definitely was not the same as we have enjoyed in the past. As such we have no immediate plans to return, or have any idea when we might. This is driven a little by our recent experience but also by real life stuff such as Louise’s Mum’s condition and required care and the fact that Rebecca is literally just about to give birth and that new arrival will need to grow some before we could consider a trip to WDW with them.

It’s weird not to have that burning desire to return that I normally have once back in the UK. A tangible sign of my apathy is that, despite now being best friends with high profile Florida vloggers, I have not watched one vlog since our return. Of course, life has been busy, and a post trip slump can be normal, but to me that seems weird. I do think that many first timers now may get home and feel the same way and be back in Magaluf the next summer.

In recent days, I can almost sense the distant rumblings of interest in another trip stirring, but they are some way off yet. It feels like some time is needed for WDW to sort itself out a bit. Post COVID staffing levels will be a big factor and getting those back up to where they are required will help them to re-open everything which in turn will hopefully spread out the crowds and reduce waiting times. My mind has considered a Florida trip with no/less parks too. Strange times indeed.

So in summary, Genie+ is a shit show, or at least it felt that way due to the long wait times. Whether Genie+ is the cause of those, I don’t know, but WDW need to get to grips with the crowd levels and whatever is impacting the guest experience so badly. It was simply not as enjoyable to be in the parks this time compared to literally every other time. The two new/different things in the mix are the COVID impact and Genie+.

Aside from the operational impact of replacing FastPass with Genie, which doesn’t seem to have improved the experience, there is also the feeling of indignation of being forced to pay extra for things that were included in your ticket price. I was very offended by this and felt ripped off when shelling out for LL and/or Genie+. This is not something that will endear visitors to WDW for the long term and any short term uptick in profits will be countered by a longer term loss of loyalty. In case I have not been clear, Genie+ is an affront, ineffective and something that will discourage us from visiting WDW in the future.

Universal was good. We were, of course, spared most crowd issues and long wait times due to staying on site and we really enjoyed it. It remains an occasional thing for a couple of days rather than the main stay of our trip, but we loved our time there. We do it infrequently because the front of line is expensive. It feels WDW may be heading the same way.

A definite huge positive from the trip was our villa. The best we have stayed in by some distance and we will return without doubt.

So there we have it. A weird trip for lots of reasons. We will absolutely go again. It won’t be for a while I would think, and in that time I hope things settle down and we can return to an experience worthy of the increasingly huge investment needed to be there.

Thank you as always for coming with us on the trip via these posts. Your patience and endurance is astonishing and appreciated.

Till the next time……

The “Why’s It Taking Long” Tour 2022 – Day Fifteen

It’s the last full day and traditionally one of sadness. There was some of that, but tempered very much by a desire to get home now. Still, we could not bring the flight forward so it was our job to make the best of the time ahead of us.

Our story today starts in the very early hours. I was asleep, unusually, but I remember (gracefully) leaping from my bed in a startled yet sleepy state, deeply confused. As my flab rippled under such odd activity, I stood in the dark of the room, wondering, where I was and what was going on.

I couldn’t see much but I could hear faint music, coming from I did not know where. I had dark and disturbing thoughts of some murderous clown coming for me in the night accompanied by some weird theme music.

This unpleasant confusion lasted a few more moments before I saw Emily move in her bed and look towards me, with a look on her face that questioned my sanity. As she did so, she removed her ear pods from her ears and the music suddenly became a lot louder.

Turns out she had been listening to music to try and drown out my snoring in an attempt to get some sleep. Add this to the “a villa suits us better” list. I sheepishly returned to bed, hopeful of a few minutes more sleep. What sleep I got was fitful and it ended around 7am. I immediately booked Genie+ to allow us to actually do some things on this our last day and as I was doing so got a message from Rebecca. She had been awake until 4, not due to Emily’s music, but more to do with pregnancy aches and pains. She was very tired and was letting us know our planned early start was off the cards for her.

Emily and I pressed ahead with the plan, after getting the stroller from the car and dropping it off at Rebecca’s room so they could join us later. We drove to Magic Kingdom and found ourselves in Hook again. The lack of trams persisted and we walked into the park whilst Facetiming Louise.

It was good to see our last day would be a consistent experience with all the others.

In our monorail compartment was an odd chap. Now I know, to some, certainly ased on last night’s ear pod experience, I would be odd, but this guy was in his early forties, yet dressed like Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. He had two mobiles on the go, constantly checking both, and he was sweating profusely whilst coughing over everyone. It was weird. He had his wife and two kids with him and spent the journey talking very loudly at them all. He shouted at his kids to get up from where they were sitting making a huge performance of it, telling the whole monorail that “Boys can stand”, unlike of course girls who cannot I assume. I convinced myself he was a drug dealing, Covid spreading idiot, and I felt sorry for his kids. Not that I am one to make snap judgements about people based on a brief encounter. Still it passed the journey to the Kingdom of Magic.

We got into Magic Kingdom around 10.30. Moans, odd blokes on the monorail, issues and Genie+ aside there are few better sights than this.

This too is a lovely sight, there are just a few too many people in the way of it. We planned to get breakfast at Sleepy Hollow. The huge queue there put paid to that so we went to the stall thing near the stocks and got a banana instead. We ate that as we walked over to Carousel Of Progress. It had no wait time unlike everything else in the park.

Today was Martin Luther King Day, but I don’t think he was there, not that the parks needed any excuse for them to be busy.

This show provided an oasis of calm from the crowds outside.

It will not shock you to learn that our bananas did not complete us, so we mobile ordered a pretzel with soft cheese from The Lunching Pad and collected it as we left Carousel.

We shared that in what were cold and windy conditions today, relatively speaking, for someone who lives in the North of England.

I restroomed.

Next we had a LL booked for Buzz but we needed to kill some time in Star Traders before that rolled around. We rode and then walked down to Main Street to do some more handbag shopping for Louise.

A cavalcade happened.

We consulted on Louise’s gifts with Rebecca, virtually, before making a final selection but deferred actual purchase till later in the day so we wouldn’t need to carry them around.

We spotted the Dapper Dans on the train station so we stopped to watch them, going live on Facebook to share that with you all.

It was now time to make our way over to the Contemporary for our lunch ADR at Steakhouse 71. Rebecca, Tom and Freddie were to meet us there.

We were early so had a look around the resort and shops.

Emily bought a hoodie and some gifts in the shop there and we met up in reception at 1pm. I checked in and we were seated five minutes later.

We got some drinks….

and then ordered….

Freddie – Burger and mash

Emily, a grilled cheese…

Me, a Turkey Club Sandwich….

Rebecca, a very poorly photographed burger….

Tom, a steak suffering in a similar way…

All of the above were great. Great service too.

The whole point of coming here, if I am honest, was the huge chocolate cake so we ordered two of those and a Crème Brulee to share between us all. Both were incredibly good.

Freddie of course had ice cream.

We all felt a bit like this after all that food.

The bill was $190 including tip and it was now 2.35pm. I had booked a LL for Big Thunder that ran out at 3.10 so we were up against it. Again, it always take far longer than you think to get from one place to another as we were about to prove.

We hurried to the monorail and the journey around the resort loop took an age, with the driver having the absolute nerve to stop at each resort. For some reason we sat outside the Grand Floridian for ages. All this meant that we only got to the entrance of Magic Kingdom at 3.05. We were clearly not going to make it to Big Thunder in five minutes, with or without a pregnant one amongst us. I cancelled our LL as if we had been late/refused entry we could not book it again that day.

Queues were looonnnnggg everywhere. The People Mover was “only” twenty minutes so we did that. Freddie then wanted to ride Buzz so we joined a 45 minute queue which only took 25. I rode with Freddie, who employed the “no look” aiming method which led to another crushing defeat at my hands.

During all of the past few hours I had been stacking LL bookings for later in the day with Genie+. One of those, for Pirates was now due so we made our way there.

More world class photography took place.

Spotting that Small World was only at 20 minutes we walked there and rode with a 10 minute wait.

Marginally better photography took place.

This took us nicely to our next LL for Peter Pan’s Flight….see….

As we boarded at 5.45, the standby wait was 110 minutes! After riding we got a drink in the Pinocchio place. At this point Tom and Freddie went off in search of more rides whilst the rest of us headed for Main Street to complete the handbag and purse purchase for Louise.

With that done, we headed over the road into the Emporium where everybody in Florida was currently shopping. We left quickly and our LL for Ariel’s ride was now due. Rebecca declined the walk all the way over there and said she would find somewhere to sit and wait for Tom and Freddie. Emily and I dodged people and speed walked over to ride.

This quick fire series of rides felt good and what we had been missing for much of the trip. During this trip it had only been possible a handful of times where we had bought Genie+ and managed to “stack” reservations for later in a day.

Emily and I now walked back to Main Street to take up a position for the fireworks. It was busy and we had no clue where everyone else was so we messaged to find out. We were stood near the bridge over to Liberty Square, with Rebecca not budging from a seat she found near Crystal Palace. Tom and Freddie were AWOL, it turned out half way round Space Mountain. Their desire to get to ride that meant they did not make it back in time for the fireworks which Rebecca was a bit upset about.

This was mine and Emily’s view.

Some trees made it less than perfect but arriving at this late stage it was good enough.

Allow me to share my photographic skills once again.

OK, this is a bit better….

An enjoyable show, but at the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it ain’t no Wishes.

We met up with Tom and Freddie outside Sleepy Hollow and we all made our way across to our final LL booking at 8.40 for Haunted Mansion whilst Rebecca told Tom off for missing the fireworks.

More epic camera work. I actually have a pretty good camera, I’m just really rubbish.

There’s something odd about knowing you’ve done your last ride. We exited into the now very cold evening, a mixture of all kinds of emotions. We strolled out, having our customary last look up Main Street.

It was less blurry than this.

You can see the crowds had really died off by now!

As ever we took the resort monorail, with even that having a ten minute queue. That wait was nothing compared to the one for the tram (yes, they do exist). I fell on my sword and walked back to the car so that everyone else could fit on one row. We all arrived back at the car at the same time.

We had not eaten for many hours now and so a search began for somewhere that was open. Again. this felt weird and unusual or is it just me? Struggling to find an open eatery or take away at around 10pm on the 192?

We found a McDonalds but as we had found all trip they had zero options for Emily. Everything had meat in it or was cooked in non-veggie oil. The rest of us got some of that and we continued what turned out to be a fruitless search for other non-meat options for another half hour or so. With Emily less than impressed we arrived home around 11pm, and those able to, ate something. We were all in bed for midnight.

Till the next time…….

The “Why’s It Taking Long Tour” 2022 – Day Fourteen

I have been less than positive about our Genie+ experience thus far. A lot of our failings and feelings have been due to us having the absolute nerve not to stay on site and prefer to have a seven bed villa with private pool rather than two double beds and a bathroom for 16 nights, at double the cost.

Well, today we were on-site special people as we were checking into Coronado Springs for a couple of days, so I was poised, pre 7am, to use that magical specialness to get us on Rise Of The Resistance, hanging the expense. Seldom have I resented the thought of spending $90 at WDW as much as I did at this moment.

As the clock ticked to 7am I clicked the relevant clicky thing on the app and there was a glorious spot available at 4pm which I gleefully selected and pressed “Next”. When that next page appeared it had changed my 4pm slot to 7.50pm, which we couldn’t do due to a clashing ADR. Thinking that was a bit odd, I went back a page to look for another slot.

They had all gone.

So you see dear reader, on site or off, this thing is absolute bobbins. Being pumped full of Disney magic in such a way by 7.01 is lovely isn’t it? It truly sets you up for the day with a smile on your face and skip in your step.

We had no plans to go to a park today unless we had got a slot for Rise so at least now we knew what we’d be doing.

I’ll make this point again. What chance does a first timer have of experiencing things at WDW now? Someone booking a trip for the first time and not even thinking they need to spend days researching and planning on the internet to ride stuff they think that have paid for. I’m sure many of you have heard of the people arriving at a park with a ticket assuming they are good to go, only to find the park at capacity and them with no pre-made reservation. I know it’s on them to find out what’s needed and it will be said that these are pandemic related measures, but if reservations ever get removed I’ll grow a fringe. The cost and complexity of how we found it in January 2022 was too much.

I lazed in bed until 8am, did the final bits of packing and tidied the villa a bit. Whilst everyone else got themselves packed, I had a chat with Louise and watched half an hour of football on the TV. We left bang on the 10am checkout time. We loved this villa and we shall return, on the off chance we should we ever return to Florida.

We had our hearts set on a large breakfast. Overnight and into the early hours there had been a huge rainstorm and that, in conjunction with a three day weekend. seemed to have pushed most of Florida into the restaurants in the area. We tried a Perkins and a Dennys, both having hour long waits for a table, so we decided just to head to the hotel and see what we could get there.

We parked up near the main tower and wandered in.

We had done all of our checking in on the app so did not need to go to reception to see that our rooms were not ready yet.

We made our way down there…

where we found the Barcelona Lounge which was to provide us with a breakfast, not quite of the volume or cheapness a Perkins or Dennys may have.

We ordered coffees, cookies, muffins and overnight Oats and found a seat to devour them.

The muffins were the recently declared “best on the planet” muffins that Emily and I had enjoyed at Riviera….

By the time we had eaten we got alerted via the app that our rooms were ready. We drove over to Casitas 3, a little disappointed not to be in the main tower but for a couple of nights, I hadn’t cared enough to request that.

The rooms were fine. A little dated, but absolutely fine for our short stay. Our view from the balcony outside of our door was….

and with some zoom….

We unpacked a little, leaving most of our cases packed for the journey home in a couple of days and settled in. Despite the less than glorious weather you can see in those photos, Tom and Freddie made it into the nearby pool. Rebecca and I sat and watched wearing fleeces! The plan for today pre-departure had been to either go to a park should we be allowed to ride the thing we wanted to or if not laze around the pool. The temperature made the latter impossible/unpleasant today so we needed another idea.

Emily messaged from the room saying she wanted to go to Disney Springs so we all got ready for that and drove there. Food happened in the shape of an Earl of Sandwich…

There was a fairly long queue, but after it….

Emily and I shared a Veggie thing….

Rebecca and Tom both had a Chicken and Avocado

Freddie had an un-photographed Grilled Cheese. All were delicious.

It will not surprise you to know, it was busy….

We went into the Co-Op to look at gifts for Louise. I wanted to get her a Dooney and Bourke handbag and maybe a purse too, as she always admires them on her trips to WDW, whilst I shake my head and say they are too expensive.

There was nothing suitable in there and we found none at all in World of Disney. We continued to stroll and browse…

We made our first visit to the new M&M shop.

Tom likes an M&M so he spent most of his annual income on sweets and merchandise in there.

We decided to go to the cinema next, as we were all shopped out and had some time to kill before our ADR at Sanaa later. There was not a great deal of choice that would suit a pan-generational group such as us, so for Freddie’s benefit, we settled on Sing 2. I had not seen Sing 1, but I was confident it would not be required viewing for me to benefit from the sequel.

With our upcoming ADR, we were denied the opportunity to eat the impressive range of snacks on offer. This was upsetting.

The film didn’t start until some time after its advertised time and we therefore didn’t leave until 8.05. The film itself? Freddie enjoyed it. Inexplicably, it contained Bono.

Our late departure meant we needed to do a speedy walk back to the car in Lime so we could make our ADR time at Kidani Village.

The crowds had gone up a level again and we were playing dodge the shopper all the way back to the garage. We were getting mild PTSD from the crowd levels at this point. We got to the car at 8.30 and courtesy of some awesome driving, arrived at Kidani at 8.50.

We checked in and were seated after just a few minutes.

We of course ordered the bread service. That is where the bread service used to be.

We briefly considered ordering a second lot but our entrees turned up.

Me and Emily – Biryani, hers without the chicken.

Butter Chicken for Rebecca and Tom

Pizza for Freddie

The service was good, but we did feel a little rushed as our ADR was a late one and the place was closing up. We were given the bill at the same time as being asked if we wanted dessert, which wasn’t ideal. We were too full anyway and we left.

We headed home feeling a little like we weren’t experiencing everything we normally would, especially after the last couple of crowd-filled frustrating days. Regardless, we were making the most of what we could do and we had one last full day tomorrow to squeeze the juice out of. Spoiler alert, it contains cake.

Till the next time……

The “Why’s It Taking Long” Tour 2022 – Day Twelve

Every week you must toss and turn of a night waiting for my sleep updates from a trip you didn’t go on months ago. So let’s clear that right up, straight off the bat. A luxurious 7am awakening today. There was a fair bit of tiredness knocking around this morning. As if being very pregnant was any kind of excuse, Rebecca’s body had told her she would not be going anywhere this morning. She needed to rest.

After a bit of TV watching and lazing about Emily and I decided to head out and check out the Skyliner. We had never ridden it and knew little about it so we were looking forward to our adventure of discovery as we left the villa around 10am.

Hanging the expense, we parked up in Hollywood Studios rather than have to come up with some clever scheme to con a security guard at the gate of one of the Skyliner resorts to let us in. Spookily we parked in the same row as yesterday but this time we made our way over to the Skyliner station.

It was not at all busy and having had a quick look at the routes online we decided to start by heading towards the Art Of Animation resort.

Soon we were up, up and away both discussing how much Louise would absolutely hate this experience. She once almost passed out on the Old Town Ferris Wheel.

It is lovely just to ride this thing. The scenery is interesting and attractive and it really helps to get a feel for the layout of many of the parks and resorts.

At AOA/Pop Century we disembarked and walked from the exit to the entrance to start our journey over to Epcot.

Once at Epcot, we again, got off and walked back around to the entrance to start the journey back.

On this leg though we stopped off at the Riviera Resort to have a nosey. It had been quite some time since we had done any resort touring. I had forgotten how nice it can be.

We found our way into the reception where there was a lovely little coffee bar where we each had a coffee and what was without doubt the best blueberry muffin on the planet. This is not up for debate.

We sat here to enjoy it.

My impression of this resort was excellent. We weren’t there longer than an hour but it looked and felt lovely. Any resort on the Skyliner route also gives you a massive bonus.

We hopped back on the Skyliner and rode back to Studios to pick up the car. It had been a really nice way to pass a few hours, it was free (coffee, muffin and parking aside) and there were no queues.

On our way home our very foundations were shaken. We had to pick up some milk and other bits for the villa so we made our way to our “regular” supermarket at Formosa Gardens. For those that know it, it is close to the Outback and still had theming in it from when Splendid China was around just behind it.

It had closed!

This was devastating news. This place has featured in almost all of trips and it felt like a member of the family had died. In addition to that I now had to drive somewhere else for milk!

The 7-11/gas station near us was fine but it did not hold the memories that the now closed previous stop did.

Upon our return, folks were in the pool and relaxing. That continued until about 2.30. We headed out to Epcot. The plan was to do our ADR at Via Napoli and then stay for the fireworks, our first time seeing Harmonious.

On the drive there I decided to try and park at a resort around the Boardwalk to make the post fireworks exit easier for Rebecca and her achy hips. We drove to the Boardwalk hotel and as I flashed my ID at the security guard I said we were heading for lunch at the Big River Grille place. This is a lovely loop hole. You cannot make ADRs for it on the app so the chap on the gate could not check we had a reservation. He waved us through and we found a parking spot without any trouble. Sure, this is bending the rules but, being frank, I have more than paid for this “privilege”.

We strolled from the car park into the resort.

This area is, and probably always will be, one of my favourite places on the planet.

We got a bit lost looking for the elevator from reception down to the Boardwalk itself but made it eventually.

Sigh.

What a lovely stroll that was.

At this point the peacefulness ended. We made our way through a very busy security check at International Gateway into World Showcase which was incredibly busy.

Again, we could not walk together. We had to keep regrouping every once in a while as we made our way around to Italy for our ADR. It was impossible to look at anything. If memory serves today was the first day of a festival which probably explained the carnage. I’m very open to the concept that this was just bad planning on my part. Doing World Showcase on the first day of a new festival doesn’t make a great deal of sense at face value. However, we’re twelve days in by now and the only places that we’ve been to on property that haven’t been rammed to the gills were a chilly Typhoon Lagoon and the Skyliner.

On our way we spotted Mr Morrow (the vlogger) and his friend Jackie, who Emily got a wave at and from. It was just too busy to even contemplate a photo.

Eventually we arrived at Via Napoli and were seated in five minutes.

Our table was lovely but bloody hell it was cold. Everyone’s sweatshirts/jackets were soon on.

We started with some Garlic Bread.

It was then pizza all round of course.

Rebecca, Tom and Freddie shared the half metre pizza.

I had the pepperoni.

Emily the Four Cheese

A picture can paint a thousand words. Tom really stepped up to the platter here and powered through when others had fallen by the wayside.

However there is no amount of food that can prevent Freddie having an ice cream.

The pizza here is excellent. The bill was $190 including a good tip. Again, not our best experience here but nothing to complain about. We were, as you may expect, full.

We ventured out again into the chaos of World Showcase. Freddie was keen to do some rides. My stomach was not. So Emily and I wandered the countries whilst the other three walked down to Future World, where hopefully it would be easier to push a stroller.

All the festival booths had enormous queues. Not that we wanted to eat anything but it was just ridiculous. As the law dictates, we started at Mexico, where even the ride in there had a twenty minute wait.

It was very hard to take anything in with the crowd levels as they were so we didn’t stay anywhere very long. There was a half hour queue just to get into the Tequila Bar in here.

There appears to be a huge gap in my photos here. It was too busy to even get the camera out.

Suffice to say we made it all the way around to France where Emily (keeper of rats) wanted to get some Ratatouille merchandise. It was dark by now.

There was of course no chance of doing the ride. I had tried to pay the extra cash to do so first thing this morning, but as off-site scum I could only do so at park opening, which was 10am. All the LL slots had gone by about 7.10am. The standby queue was approaching two hours at this point.

The theming in the area is lovely though!

Eventually, with the help of a CM, we found the Remy shop, which was helpfully nowhere near the ride. Emily got a few bits and we both were delighted to see this chap helping behind the tills.

We continued our loop through the UK and into Canada. We passed Mr Morrow again with what looked like an entourage of about twenty people with him. We stopped in Canada and waited fifteen minutes to watch the new show there.

Look, all that matters is that it still contains “that song”, but I preferred the Martin Short version. The new film is pretty much a rehash of many of the old clips with a new narration.

As we left we messaged Rebecca and arranged to meet at America as we wanted to try and watch the Disney on Broadway show. They were currently in the UK. The pavilion. They had not flown home.

As we had continued our loop and we were now opposite America we tried to get the boat service across but as we reached the jetty the captain closed it and we had to hoof it all the way around. All these steps had at least walked off that muffin from earlier.

Navigating World Showcase on a night like this, with only minutes to get to your destination for a show about to start should be an Olympic sport. Dodging, ducking weaving, all at pace, takes some serious skills.

We got to the theatre outside the America pavilion a few minutes before the show was due to start. This was the second show. We had walked past the queue for the first one on our loop of World Showcase and it was horrific so we assumed it would already be full, Thankfully it was not.

Rebecca had decided to stay put in France where we planned to watch the fireworks to cut down on the walking.

Emily and I settled in.

This was fab and “proper” Disney theme park stuff. We loved it. Top quality, with a real feel good feeling. The two singers were brother and sister and had both done many shows on Broadway. I pretended not to know the words to the High School Musical songs.

We left and walked up to France to meet up with everyone else who were sat on a bench near the fountains in France.

I walked round to the shop at International Gateway for some waters before the show started. The view, considering we were able to sit down, was fine.

Freddie genuinely loved every second of this show.

I have spared you most of my typically useless photos of fireworks.

The show itself is very well produced and of really high quality. You’ll know our affection for Illuminations, so it won’t be too shocking to know we found it a little emotionless. It’s “another” Disney’s Greatest Hits to fireworks and that is great, but it just lacked the feel and heart of the former show.

We made our way slowly out to the Boardwalk area and strolled back to the car. Many others were doing the same but I always feel it is the better option than trying to get to the main exit and then get a tram etc. Indeed the Boardwalk at night is somewhere I would happily walk around in a loop for many hours. Have I mentioned I like it here?

We were home impressively by 10.15.

Till the next time…….

The “Why’s It Taking Long” Tour 2022 – Day Eleven

Day Eleven already. These weeks are flying by aren’t they? Only another 6 days (weeks) to endure.

Good news. I slept undisturbed until 6.30am. What a state it is to be celebrating that. After two very full on days at Universal the start today was a little lethargic. There were all sorts of excuses, like pregnancy and being four and tired. Folks were on very thin ice. I have proven this holiday that sleep can be optional.

Everyone showered, dressed and did breakfasts and we meandered from the villa around 10.30am. We were Studios bound this morning/early afternoon!

We parked in Mickey 314, again bereft of a tram and yomped across the car park to the entrance. It was by now almost time to leave again. This lack of a tram was not only a minor inconvenience for me (more so for pregnant Rebecca) but it was just one more bit of the experience that was missing. When we first ever went to WDW in 1980 and the years that followed, once back home we would talk excitedly about the scale of the place and how, once you’ve parked up you still needed a monorail, boat or tram to get into the park. Yes, they provide free trams from your car and back, it’s amazing we would say.

So you get used to stuff like this of course, but again for those first timers, it’s just another thing to lessen the joy and the magic and what makes WDW unique. Things continue to return to a pre-pandemic state it seems, so I hope we can get back to what we all love, know and expect.

It was 11.10 by the time we were stood here.

Was it still busy today?

Before we had chance to move off, a cavalcade appeared.

Knowing that by this time actually riding stuff would be a challenge we strolled through a few shops and made our way over to the Indy show. It started at 12 and we got in around 11.30.

This chap was excellent. He kept everyone entertained whilst also getting folks to move to where he wanted them. A reminder of the magic and a promise of its return hopefully.

It had been a while….

We were out at 12.30 and you will know that by this time lunch was very overdue. I wanted to go over to Galaxy’s Edge and try a Ronto wrap thing. This would not be up Freddie’s street so we got him some nuggets from the Backlot place. Whilst Rebecca did that, I mobile ordered our spacey lunch and we started to walk over to Galaxy’s Edge.

Upon collecting them, they did seem a lot smaller than my expectations.

After coveting these things for a long time, my verdict was….meh.

They were tasty, but small. Not that a lack of size is a guarantee of disappointment of course, but overall they were a let down for the $75 it cost for five of them (including drinks).

Whilst we ate, sat on a wall in Galaxy’s Edge, we called Louise for a chat. We tried to make her feel better with true tales of horrific wait times for everything. Determined not to pay for Genie+ today, having arrived late and sick of coughing up the extra dollars, we had no choice but to endure some long wait times. First up, Smuggler’s Run, currently showing a 75 minute standby wait.

On the bright side, it did give us plenty of time to appreciate the theming in the queue. Right?

75 minute waits and four year olds don’t naturally go together, but to his credit, despite his almost uncontainable excitement to ride, Freddie did well.

About forty minutes in Tom’s phone was deployed.

We arrived in the superbly themed loading area after a 55 minute wait.

Freddie was a pilot and absolutely loved it again.

We left the ride and started the walk over to the Animation Courtyard area where Rebecca was waiting for us. On the way, I did the decent thing and stopped off to get us all a Num Num.

Unlike the Ronto things these never disappoint. Girth, width, depth and taste all in one heart stopping package. I inhaled the disgraceful amount of calories in no time at all.

Looking at what to do next, Tower of Terror was showing a 45 minute wait. Resigned to this fate today we joined the queue which started waaaaaay outside the ride.

In a rare stroke of luck, just after we took our place at the back of the queue, a huge tour group joined the queue. There must have been a hundred of them all in matching T Shirts. They could have been one of the infamous Brazilian tour groups you hear tell of. To be honest, I could not tell if they had Brazilians or not from my position and it felt rude to ask.

We entertained Freddie as best we could and the queue moved pretty quickly.

More excellent theming greeted us at the entrance after about 45 minutes.

Another ten minutes saw us through the pre-show and boiler room.

The Goof was out on the balcony above the exit.

There had been no improvement in any of the wait times as we exited so we girded loins and other appendages for another wait. A 55 minute posted wait for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Emily couldn’t face it and sat out chatting to her boyfriend back home.

We settled in. Boredom levels led to play fighting….

I had got Freddie some lollipops for being patient in the queues. He licked it a bit and then hit his Dad with it. As a side note, those lollipops were my first ever purchase using the mobile app checkout process. It worked well and avoided a queue.

Before we even got inside the theatre the queue ground to a halt for a good ten minutes and overall it took well over 70 minutes to board.

The pre-show was clever and the ride is better than expected but the ridiculous wait left a bit of a sour taste and took the shine off. I was so miffed, my usual excellent photography skills were affected.

Our old friend Star Tours had a very welcoming 10 minute wait time posted so we went and did that. We wanted to ride Slinky but couldn’t endure another wait over an hour just yet, so we just hoped that would improve later in the day.

We got a new (to us) story on this one which made it even more enjoyable and upon exiting, we called Louise back who had called us just as we were getting strapped in.

We chatted outside Star Tours in the increasing dusk. Always a nice time at any WDW park.

We could not put it off any longer. We went over to Toy Story Land with Slinky in our sights.

Our plan of waiting till late in the day for a shorter queue worked brilliantly….

We sucked it up and settled in.

When I say it only took an hour, well you will take that in the spirit it is intended I know. It was bloody chilly in the queue, but once we were on, we had great fun. This is a belter for younger guests. Fast and just thrilling enough not to terrify them. Not that anything had come close to that for Freddie.

Rebecca had waited in One Man’s Dream to keep warm and we met her there after riding. It was safe to say that we were all queued out for one day and we headed for the exit and walked back to the car.

Is it just me or does that sight of a row of cars in a WDW car park give anyone else a warm and fuzzy feeling?

Dinner tonight was Olive Garden and we drove the short distance to Lake Buena Vista and parked up. There was a 30 minute wait for a table but after today we were well prepared for that. We were seated in 20.

I don’t want this entire trip report to turn into a moan fest. We enjoyed very large chunks of the trip, but I have to be fair and let you know how we felt. Our server here was less friendly and attentive than we have seen in years gone by.

Is this due to the staffing issues post Covid? Have the experienced servers got the better paying/tipping jobs now and places are having to take on inexperienced servers. I don’t know. He may just have been having a bad/busy night. Despite all that nobody could deny us the salad and breadsticks.

Glorious.

I had Tour Of Italy, as I tend to….

Rebecca had Chicken Parm….

Emily had Fettuccini Alfredo and loved it

Tom had stuffed pasta.

Freddie had a ridiculously children’s portioned pizza.

Soft drinks for all tonight. We paid the bill using the gadget on the table. I’m all for this. Once we’ve eaten we’re very ready to go and being able to do so without waiting for the server who may be busy elsewhere is a bonus. it was $125 including a 20% tip. Great value.

We left the restaurant and as we got back to the car there was a man lying down in the bushes nearby. We considered what to do and not feeling very proud of ourselves we got in the van and left. This really bothered me all the way home but you think of all the things that may happen if we had approached him. It’s terrible that you have to. I still feel very uncomfortable about the whole thing now. It was cold and he was probably genuinely ill/drunk or whatever. Not good.

Just as we pulled away Freddie announced he needed a wee. We pulled into a gas station where he expertly had a pee into an empty water bottle without leaving the van.

We were home by 10 and asleep very shortly after.

Till the next time……

The “Why’s It Taking Long” Tour 2022 – Day Ten

Frost and Nixon. Torvill and Dean. Morecambe and Wise. Ali and Fraser.

Over the years there have been many momentous moments were two legends met each other, forever changing the shape of history. Today would see another such event, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’ll be time enough for epoch shaping meet ups later, first, I’m still asleep.

However 4am rolled around again, and in came another work call. I didn’t even answer this one and fought my way back to sleep till 6.30. Like all experienced Dads I made enough noise and created enough light in the room to make sure that Emily was awake not too long after. I showered, dressed and packed and we were out of the room by 8.40. We left our case with the folks in reception, bought some $20 painkillers from the gift shop and then Emily and I went to the Starbucks for breakfast whilst we waited for everyone else. I had a breakfast burrito and a latte and Emily’s veggie options were limited and resulted in a portion of breakfast potatoes and an Iced Macchiato.

We found a table in the courtyard area.

Rebecca, Tom and Freddie came down around 9.30 and joined us there to eat their breakfasts. It was a lovely spot and a really nice way to start the day and end our stay here.

One thing to note at Universal. I had persistent issues with my Caxton card. Everywhere I tried it on Universal property it didn’t work. It may just have been me and my card, but it worked everywhere else for the whole trip.

We made our way down to the water taxi by around 10am.

I have had worse commutes.

We disembarked and made our way to Studios.

It did not look any quieter today.

We rode Minions first, bypassing a grim queue with our specialness.

Those who could rode Rip, Ride, Rockit next. It was still early in the day and I was not ready physically or mentally for this experience. Rebecca’s inability to ride meant we bypassed the horrors of needing a locker and we were on within five minutes after going through another full airport style metal detector. Despite endless signs, announcements and videos telling you that riding with anything in your pockets is not allowed we still waited behind some chap who got to the detector with his phone in his pocket. Sigh.

Top tip: At Universal, if you can travel light, without bags and the like it will make your life so much easier. Clothing with zip pockets are a real bonus here too to hold your park ticket/front of line pass and of course your credit cards.

This, without doubt is the toughest ride physically. The initial climb almost induced a revisit to my breakfast burrito and I was in full rollercoaster Tourette’s mode for the entire ride.

We walked over to Transformers next for a first time ride for almost all of us. Freddie was very excited. We all enjoyed it but I would say it is basically Spider Man with a different film. When you’re four though, that doesn’t matter.

He was extra happy as his Dad had treated him to a couple of Transformer toys in the exit gift shop. We then spent the next half hour trying to get them out of the packaging.

Once we’d finished that and lost half of the small plastic bits that came with the toys, this appeared across the street, so we watched it.

So that Rebecca could take part in something we decided to do the Make Up Horror Show next. Outside was this chap….

This is always good fun but it does have the odd scene that a four year old may not be totally Ok with! It was more the film clips that are played rather than anything that happened on stage.

You will have been quite worried that we had not eaten for quite some time, so we rectified that in the ice cream shop over the road.

It was at this point that Rebecca went for a wee and Emily then spotted Tim and Jen Tracker across the street doing some filming.

When they had finished, they walked across the road towards us. I waved as if I knew them and they kindly waved back before walking up the street to film some more stuff with Scooby Do I think. We thought nothing more of it, but when they were done they walked back to where we were sitting and we had a lovely chat for a few minutes.

They were genuinely lovely, asked about our trip, previous trips, the weather and just general chit chat. Of course they must chat with idiot strangers who wave at them all the time. I felt it inappropriate to mention that he is clearly a long term reader of this here blog as he has commented on at least two posts. I didn’t want them to feel intimidated in my presence.

It was indeed a coming together of two Disney internet giants and they were suitably humbled to have this honour I am sure. They left us just as Rebecca returned. If you watch their video from Universal Studios, filmed on January 12th, Tom features in it for about half a second!

Having made the Tracker’s day, we wandered off towards ET.

I do wonder what sort of deal Spielberg struck when this was built as it is literally untouched since we first rode it. Yes they still collect names as you enter and yes of course they are inaudible as you finish the ride. Freddie did say, when he asked what he thought of ET, that he was adorable which made us chuckle.

Tom took Freddie on the Woodpecker ride….

before we headed over to The Simpsons Ride. Naturally we stopped off to pick up a couple of doughnuts.

In light of my Caxton woes I drew out some cash on it at the ATM here.

We rode The Simpsons ride after Freddie played a few of the carnival games outside, winning more quality items. This time it was a 4 foot inflatable alien which we left in the villa. Matt, you are welcome!

I realised that we had never ridden this before…

and even wondered how long it had been there as I’m sure I have never even noticed it before. We still didn’t ride it.

Men in Black was next.

We avoided both a queue and the lockers again thankfully and it is always a fun ride. I do always feel that it lacks some “feedback” as to when you are actually hitting stuff you should be. It’s all a bit manic and random with no way to know if you are hitting any targets.

Our loop continued onto Diagon Alley. The crowd levels were worse here but that is always to be expected.

It’s a shame as this is one of those places where it would be lovely to stroll around taking in all the theming and detail, but with the crowd levels today our focus was on not bumping into people.

On our last visit, Gringott’s was not a Front of Line ride, so again we had done it once after a lengthy queue. We were pleased to be able to miss the 60 minute standby line and board quite quickly….twice.

Tom was apparently too large to fit into the row we were allocated and we had to disembark and wait for the next one and get loaded into the “Fat Lad” row at the back. This is another very clever ride with lots of detail and it merits multiple rides to take everything in. I did feel that it never seems to “get going” concentrating more on a story line that personally I couldn’t hear or follow very well. I did enjoy it of course. It is very impressive but I do know that both Universal and Disney wait for my weekly posts to get their steer for their future plans so I need to express my thoughts.

We tried our best to have a look around but didn’t stay too long as it was too busy.

Our next ride was Fast & Furious. It was fast and I was furious. It is an awful, awful ride. Granted, I have never and will never watch the films so maybe it was lost on me but the whole thing was horrible. It is an incredibly poor and weak story and concept shoe horned into a previous ride’s infrastructure. I will try not to spoil it for those yet to ride, but the concept of a party bus doing stunts is the main premise. Endless bangs and crashes for endless bangs and crashes sake on an uncomfortable ride vehicle riding through a story that makes less sense than Brexit. Perhaps I was just over the whole simulation thing. There are lots of them here.

On our way over to Fallon, I stopped to get four packs of crisps. $8. Kerching. We sat and inhaled those sat opposite Fallon waiting for the upcoming parade.

We then entered Fallon (in previous years, when I was less mature, that would have been the set up line for a hilarious gag) and rode without any wait. This is another simulator, but one of the better ones.

At Freddie’s request we rode Transformers again.

Followed by a browse of a memorabilia shop.

That was said to be the guitar from Back To The Future. Freddie got a slightly cheaper Slimer toy from Ghostbusters.

It was 6pm now and Tom forced me to do Rip, Ride again. I girded my loins and steeled my body for the battering to come, just like Fallon did not long ago! Boom. That level of comedic genius is why you read this dross.

I was spent as we headed for the exit and the boat back to Royal Pacific. We were back there in no time, collecting our cases from Luggage Services before heading back to the van. Technically, I walked to the car park to get it and then drove it back to the hotel entrance to save Rebecca more walking.

Tonight’s dining plan was….

and we got there in about fifteen minutes. It was very quiet and we were told just to pick any table. It may sound strange but our server was a bit odd and it stuck us that he maybe wasn’t a regular server as he was a bit all over the place.

Anyway, we ordered appetisers.

A Mediterranean trio for me.

Mozzarella Bricks for Rebecca and Emily

Pretzel Rolls for Tom

Our server only took our appetiser orders and we waited an age after finishing them for him to appear and clear them away. As he did he asked if we wanted the bill! Very strange.

We pointed out we were fat knackers and wanted entrees too so he took our orders.

Emily and I had the Jack Knife burger, with a suitably non meaty patty for Emily.

It was OK but I instantly regretted venturing away from my usual Donut or Cronie Burger. I had chosen this one as it was said to come with Hollandaise sauce. If it did, I could not taste it.

Tom had The Pig

Rebecca, the Bolder Betty

Freddie had the burger from the kid’s menu.

Overall, this was probably our worst experience at Teak. It was not bad at all, just not as we have experienced it previously. How quiet it was meant there was none of the usual buzz and atmosphere and our server was bobbins, bless him. The bill was $175 including an overly generous tip and we were all very, very full.

A tired drive home saw us back at the villa and in bed by 10.30.

Till the next time……

The “Why’s It Taking Long” Tour 2022 – Day Nine

Before we move on, it’s probably right that I add a bit of context and follow up on what was a fairly negative post at times last week about our experience in Magic Kingdom that day specifically, which was a more extreme version of what we experienced a lot during the trip.

Disney have a lot of credit in the bank with us and we will of course return. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected our perception or even tempered our usual burning desire to return, so they don’t get a free hit. However, there were lots of extenuating circumstances that lead me to give them some benefit of some doubt.

  1. Our mood – Louise’s absence and the worry about her Mum’s condition definitely made the trip feel very different for all of us. No doubt this was reflected in our approach to things and my reporting of the trip here. Don’t think we didn’t enjoy stuff. It was just different and a bit muted.
  2. COVID – This was right in the middle of the Omicron wave and the parks and resorts were still heavily affected by COVID, not offering many of the experiences, attractions and shows that would typically soak up crowds. This inevitably had a huge knock on effect and led to long, long lines for the rides as there wasn’t as much to do aside from rides as there has been in the past.
  3. Pandemic pent up travel – I am sure there were many people there in January, like us, who would not normally be there at that time. Two years of restricted travel meant that crowds were bound to be higher once folks were allowed to and felt more comfortable travelling.
  4. Genie+ – It was and is still fairly new. Don’t get me wrong, I think its an abomination and an insult to loyal guests to have them pay out hundreds of dollars more for what was always included in your park ticket, but in terms of the practicalities of getting onto rides, I’m willing to cut them some slack as they were probably still getting used to it and optimising things. As I say, I still hope they kill it with fire.

So all of those things conspired to make our experience, at times, less than we would usually expect and enjoy. The world wasn’t in a normal place at the time of this trip and neither were we to be honest. So with all those caveats in place, I stand by my opinion that Genie+ is shite, the parks were less than they usually are and some “magic” was missing.

Right, on with the trip.

Today we were headed to Universal and our stay at the Royal Pacific. 4am features at the start of may day again, but this time not voluntarily. Some idiot back in the UK called me. It was work related and to make matters worse, it was some cold call about something not relevant to me or my role. Safe to say, he did not make a sale.

I regained slumber until 6am. I was up, finishing off packing, showering and breakfasting when Emily came downstairs at 7.30. We were all ready to go by 8.30 and I pointed the van up the I4. It was a clear run and we pulled into the car park of the Royal Pacific around 9.10am. I self-parked and we headed inside to check in. It took a while. I stood watching a bloke tap at a keyboard for more time than getting a hotel room should necessitate and in the middle of it he charged me $28 to park, which I felt was bordering on taking the piss.

On the plus side our rooms were ready so we headed off to 2429 and 2427.

I was very pleased that I had opted for the “Tree View” upgrade.

Emily and I literally dumped our case in the room and turned around, waiting in the corridor outside Rebecca and Tom’s room for about ten minutes whilst they did stuff necessary when you have a four year old and a bump.

It was early and still quite chilly so it was no shock to see an empty pool.

We were security’d and on board a taxi in just a few minutes. The park tickets, stored on their app all scanned fine at the entrance too.

It had been a while so it was nice to see some familiar sights again.

Armed with our Front of Line passes we felt invincible and unstoppable, so we had no need to be frantically refreshing an app to look at wait times. We wanted to ride Spider Man first, so we did.

There is a clear contradiction here, in that I have moaned about Genie+ and paying extra to ride stuff without a queue at Disney, whereas we have willingly paid to stay on-site at Universal to get those perks. I get that. The difference?

Well, we only ever spend 2-3 days at Universal, if we go at all, due to the extra cost in doing the on-site thing. It has been years since we visited and we only do so when we can afford the extra cash needed to do it. Universal is also easily just a 2-3 day thing, especially with Front Of Line. Disney can often be a two week adventure.

With that in mind, Disney is the foundation and mainstay of our trip and if charging extra continues and/or increases then we and I suspect many others, will begin to plan differently. Something has to give, so less would be spent on accommodation, number of days in WDW, on site dining, and souvenirs/merch if the only way to ride headliners is to pay $8-15 each or pay $15 each to have a chance at avoiding endless queues. It feels like optional spending is being replaced by almost mandatory spend, which if you are on the Disney board or a shareholder, in the short term that’s great. The long term effects as you lose long term loyal guests may not be the win you think it is.

Anyway, we rode without waiting and it is still an impressive ride, especially if you are 4 and obsessed with Spider Man.

Tom was impressed with the ride. Having seen videos of it on t’internet he said it was much more intense and enjoyable than he had expected. Speaking of intense, next Emily, Tom and I went to ride The Hulk. Of course before we could do that we had to strip down to our underwear and stow everything but that in a locker. That is a faff. They do love a locker at Universal and it’s just hard work, especially when it is busy.

Anyway, after longer than it should have taken we walked through the metal detector and onto the ride. We joined the main queue and waited about five minutes. We were lucky to be seated on the back row and well, wow, that launch.

I don’t know why all that netting is still there. Everyone is relieved of anything loose before riding so unless it’s there to catch vomit or body parts it may be redundant.

I left the ride weak at the knee and a bit light headed so the best remedy for that was food. It was 11.20 after all.

I whipped out the app and had a look at eateries. Keeping it simple we chose the one we were stood outside just by the Hulk.

I had a cheesy meatball sub, but that’s what happens at my age.

Tom had the same with pizza for everyone else.

We decided to wander across to the Seuss stuff next.

Cat in the Hat was first.

Rebecca obeyed the guidance for this one and sat out, but I’m sure she would have been fine. Still, not worth the risk of course. There is always a weird feeling riding these things with Freddie when about twenty minutes ago I was doing the same with the girls at his age and above. Life is what happens when you are busy surviving the never ending grind of earning a living.

Onward now to One Fish, Two Fish. There was no queue but that was not going to stop me using my Front of Line thing,

Emily and I played it sensible recognising the still very low temperatures. Rebecca suffered at the hands of Tom, who disobeyed all the instructions and got them all wet.

In the natural flow of things next we should have ridden Carro-seuss-el thing. However it was in a very bad state, looking like it was half way through being dismantled. Instead we moved on to the Circus McGurkus thing. I am slightly ashamed that after all these years I still don’t know the proper names of some of these things.

There was an upsetting ten minute wait despite our specialness. Louise called just as that ended and we were boarding so we promised a call back.

I appear to have taken a lot of photos on this ride. There were some interesting views of course, but I think it was more to capture the fact that it was running. Nearly every time we have been in the past it has been down.

I cannot explain this photo.

We got some cakes at the shop near the exit of this ride and had a seat whilst we chatted to Louise. Tom took Freddie off to meet/watch the Grinch in a show just down the street.

Having let the crowds build nicely, not caring one jot, cloaked in our special on-site status we meandered, nay, ambled over to the Potter stuff.

By jingo it was busy here.

This is the ride we did first, and I am grateful I took the photo as it will save me having to spell it.

Another hit with Freddie. We then left him and Rebecca to wander whilst the rest of us did Forbidden Journey. The last time we came this ride was not included in your Front of Line perks, so we have only ever ridden it once after a very long queue. It was nice not to have to worry about that today. We could also leave all our “stuff” with Rebecca and hooked onto the stroller to avoid more locker carnage.

It is safe to say that I had forgotten the intensity levels of this ride. Wow, it’s a sinus clearer. Very good, very intense and incredibly well done.

It had now been far too long between ice creams for Freddie (and Tom) so we went in search of one in the direction of the Jurassic bit. None were found so we rode Kong instead.

Freddie was tall enough, but on balance some of the “scenes” may have been a little intense for him, but he did not even raise an eyebrow.

This may not win any photography competitions.

Ice cream and churros were found not far from Kong as we continued our loop around the park. It was 3pm by now and still cool enough for hoodies etc. So it made perfect sense to take on a water ride.

First up the impressively insane…

We left Rebecca with our stuff and for once I don’t think she was too sad about not being able to ride. There was a minor kerfuffle as the team members shoe horned Tom into the ride, but eventually with only minor damage to his leg, we were off. There is a horrible moment once you set off on this thing where you realise that unless the ride breaks down or there is an act of God, you are going down the big water ramp at the end. It’s bad enough in the relentless Florida heat of August, but in the very cool January afternoon, today that horror was intensified.

Freddie was at the front and got soaked on the first tiny dip so it did not bode well.

All I remember now is as we crested the hill and started to dip downwards to our doom, a cry of “I have changed my miiiiiiinnnndddd” escaped from my lips.

Too late. We got wet.

We walked back to Rebecca, already chafing, already freezing cold, searching out strips of sunshine as they emerged. At this point, it made complete sense to ride the Bilge rat thing too. We couldn’t get any wetter, right?

Wrong.

This one is such good fun. Every time you ride it you are constantly scanning your surroundings looking to avoid splashes and soakings. You know it is pointless. Everyone emerges from this ride as if they had sat in a bath, but still you try. We all loved it.

Rebecca had brought Freddie a change of clothes so he was whipped away to be changed. Selfishly, she had not planned ahead for anyone else though so we had to fend for ourselves.

I swapped my wet T-Shirt (steady!) for the sweat shirt I had stuffed into Ryan so at least my upper half was only moist. Emily did the same.

Emily, Tom and I then set off hoping to ride Velocicoaster. We arrived hoping to do single rider to limit our wait times but that lines was closed, at capacity. The queue looked a bit grim, and this one was not included in our on-site perks.

A 40 minute wait was posted and to be fair it was pretty much bob on. In this case, that wait was absolutely worth it. My word, what a ride. It is very hard to describe, but this is clearly a “next generation” rollercoaster. Incredibly smooth, surprising, nicely terrifying, very fast and with a few “I’m out of my seat” moments. Incredible. Ride it.

We made our way back to Rebecca and Freddie full of adrenaline. They had walked back to the Potter stuff and Tom took Freddie on the Hippogriff again.

I restroomed.

Those who could rode Forbidden Journey again. We used our perks to get straight to the front where we then waited fifteen minutes to ride. It turned out they had to close the ride for all but one party with a disabled guest.

Freddie wanted to ride Spider Man again. We set off in that direction and it was chilly enough, for idiots who had got soaked to warrant a hot chocolate on the way. We rode with the web slinger again, and then Tom forced me to do Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall with him. I had never ridden this before, due to cowardice. It was, as I expected, fun and horrific in equal measure.

Whilst we did that Emily took Freddie on Spider Man again. See what happens when you have on-site perks?

I have to admit that my aging body was broken at this point and I gladly rested whilst Tom and Freddie played in the arcade.

The girls and I wandered some shops for a bit before leaving the park around 7pm.

They were setting up for some private event by the looks of things.

Once at City Walk , Emily and I went into the new Universal store in search of warmer clothes. It was downright cold now.

Emily got some joggers and a T-Shirt and over at the Legacy store I got a long sleeved top both for now and for tomorrow as the one I had brought from the villa was moist.

We had a reservation booked at

This did not seem to count for much as despite checking at 7.45 for our 8pm reservation we were still stood outside trying to keep warm until 8.30. I had a few moans at the lady on the podium, but it seemed everyone was waiting a long time tonight. Why take bookings if you can’t honour them?

We ordered drinks and appetisers.

These blurry beers are very cool….

Ah that’s better…

Our appetisers were appetising. Bacon Fries and Fried Pickles. They were not photographed but that did not detract from their deliciousness.

Entrees were –

Freddie – Chicken Nuggets

Cheeseburgerooshi for Tom, Rebecca and me. One the tastiest things in Florida!

Veg roll for Emily

I had a deconstructed Cheesecake

I didn’t write down how much it was.

We walked out into very chilly weather and over to the water taxi. We waited about five minutes which was long enough in the temperature that night. We went immediately to our rooms and beds, happy to get dry and warm. Sleep came at around 10.30.

Till the next time……

The “Why’s It Taking Long Tour” 2022 – Day Four

Holidays are a time to relax, de-stress, kick back and avoid any issues to deal with that may raise your blood pressure. Well, this holiday was already classed as “not normal” so sit back and let me tell you a story.

Today started early, again. I was awake at 4am. I dozed till 6ish when Louise phoned me. She was a bit flustered as she was on Asda’s car park, in the snow, having just locked the car keys in the boot of the car, and of course the car had now locked.

This is not the news you want to hear from 4,000 miles away, as usually I would have picked up the spare key and driven the ten minutes to Asda to resolve the problem. Today Louise had a million things to do to prepare for her Mum coming home, so her stress levels were already higher than normal.

I sprang into action, calling Greenflag, who we get cover with via our bank account. They said they would despatch someone asap. I passed this on to Louise and had a shower and some breakfast, glad that this emergency had been dealt with.

We had noticed that Epcot didn’t open until 10am today which was a bit weird, but having been quite tardy with our park arrivals so far we made up for it by leaving the villa at 8.40. We parked in Amaze 34 and walked into the park.

On site special people were being greeted into the park like the elite kind of folks they are and us scummy off site proles had to settle for a Joffrey’s coffee and a doughnut.

Right about now Louise called me again, in a very heightened state of distress. The Greenflag man could not open the car. She was at this stage trying to smash a window on the car and I was phoning glass replacement businesses some 4,000 miles away to see who could repair it when she did. Several more calls came in from Louise, each more upsetting than the last.

Greenflag man asked Louise if she had a spare key for the car, at which point I think his head landed about half a mile away after she had taken it off. I was calling various family members to see who could help.

The horrible juxtaposition of me being stood in the pleasant warmth of Florida about to undertake a day in a theme park and Louise’s end of the video call, which consisted of sleet, high winds and a very distraught wife was not one I ever wish to repeat.

Meanwhile, back in Epcot, I sent everyone else off to do stuff whilst I sat near the entrance calling and googling various things to try and help. The new plan was to get a locksmith to our house to “break in” so Louise could get the spare key. The tricky bit wasn’t finding a locksmith, which I did from Epcot in two phone calls, no, the real challenge was getting Louise home. For reasons I cannot understand all the local taxi places would not take her as it was a journey from one town to another and due to COVID, apparently, this meant it was a no no. I was too stressed and busy to even worry about this.

We were about an hour in now and I was close to a heart attack. You do not want to be across an ocean when there is an emergency happening back home. Then, a saviour entered the scene. The locksmith I had found was sat outside our house and he called Louise to ask where she was. She explained she was stuck at Asda and could not get home. Like a superhero he went to pick her up.

Upon their return they were to go around the back of the house and pop one of the locks on the conservatory, which is very old and due to be replaced as soon as the weather improves enough for it to be installed. At the back of our house is a field and to get down from it to our garden there is a steep slope with less then great steps.

Here it is in what passes for summer in the North West of England.

Both Louise and the locksmith went down those steps, however Louise did so on her backside, slipping on the mix of sleety snow and other wintry shite on the ground. You may smile, or even laugh at that image now and that’s OK. At the time, nobody did!

We are edging towards the end of this story now. At this time I had wandered up through Epcot to meet everyone and I did so outside The Land as they had ridden Soarin’.

On my way up, just as some attempt at this being a trip report, I should mention that Epcot is a building site. I find it odd that it is so during the 50th celebrations, but the whole centre part of the park has endless boards up. It’s a bit of a mess.

As I waited, after all this stress, there was almost inevitably, a large Pooh.

We walked over to Nemo and Friends, but I was still mentally back home, waiting for news from Louise and confirmation that she had found the spare key and got into the car.

Whilst in the ten minute queue, Louise called. She had the spare key. The crowning glory of this tale is that when Louise and the locksmith had rappelled down the slope to our back garden and conservatory, and as the locksmith was preparing to break in, it turns out the conservatory door was open!

Suffice to say, Louise paid him plus a large tip for saving the day regardless of him just acting as a taxi.

I had chest pains.

We rode.

After that we decided to do Crush and walked in just as the doors were closing.

A few minutes into the show my phone went again. It was Louise and I had to leave the show to take it. She had got a taxi back to Asda and was back in the car and on with her day.

To add insult to chest pains and injury, it turned out that there was a lack of ambulances, so Mary’s homecoming would be tomorrow instead of today.

Shall we all just have a minute?

The weight of a thousand manatees lifted from my shoulders as I waited near them for the others to finish Crush.

We then wandered the rest of the tanks.

Half in anger and half as reward for the stressful delay to our park touring day, I had purchased Genie+. I had secured a Lightning Lane (from hereon in that is a LL). Even at that time in the morning all the LL’s for Test Track were gone for that day. How can a system where you pay for special access have that happen? I booked us onto Mission Space for 11.45 instead. It was now time for that so we made our way over there via the circuitous route created by all the screening boards.

Myself, Emily and Tom rode that. We rode the Orange intense side much to my delight.

I missed most of the briefing video as the next LL window was due right at that time so I spent those minutes looking at the app, choosing what to book next. I felt absolutely dog rough as we left the ride. It’s an age thing I am convinced. I once took my Mum on it when she was in her 70’s and almost killed her. I fear I am heading for the same fate as the years pass.

Freddie was spending a bit of time in the splash pad despite it not really being splash pad weather.

That next LL booking I had made was for Spaceship Earth and it was due now. We headed that way.

I had the honour of riding with Freddie.

Lunch was now very overdue so we headed back to The Land for food. I had something called a Land Crusher which was pulled pork on Texas Toast. I think it’s called that as it Texas so long to make it.

Honestly it was one of the tastiest things I had all trip.

It was so good I have no record of what anyone else had.

I had by now booked our next LL for Journey Into Imagination and not too surprisingly that was due immediately.

I constantly wondered what Freddie was making of these things he was experiencing for the first time. Now I know he’s ridden some of this stuff before but he of course has no memory of it.

Having no way to book any form of LL for Test Track, next, everyone except Rebecca joined the 60 minute queue.

Even with two breakdowns of the ride whilst we queued, and here we are during one of those looking happy about it…

We were on in 25 minutes. I am not one to suggest that wait times are being inflated to encourage the purchase of Genie+. To be fair it was a mixed bag all trip with many times the displayed minutes being correct and a good number of times it not.

We designed our cars….

Waited a bit more….

and enjoyed the ride.

With Rebecca waiting for us on her own we did not spend too much time admiring the cars we could not afford.

We met Rebecca in the new Creations shop. Rebecca and Freddie finally got their new magic bands all linked up and after a browse of the shop we found a bench and had a drink whilst Tom took Freddie on Mission Space. It’s always a judgement call as to when you let your small kids go on the big stuff. Every child is different of course but Tom and Rebecca were confident he would be OK. There are surgical procedures I would have undertaken without sedation rather than ride Mission Space again at this time.

Freddie loved it and returned with one of those Groot things that sit on your shoulder as a reward for bravery. Yes, he rode Orange too.

We walked over to the Short Film Festival next. Please don’t disregard this when looking for things to do. Sure, it’s no Captain Eo, but it was extremely enjoyable.

As we entered this, Mickey was out for pictures. We couldn’t stop as the show was about to begin, so as we left we circled back and were delighted to find him still there.

I am hoping these socially distanced style photos will just be a reminder of different times soon and we can get back to the meet and greets with hugs and stuff soon.

As we walked back to the stroller we passed one of the cutest service dogs we saw all trip and for some reason we saw a lot. We have never really seen any in all our previous times, but this year they were everywhere.

At some point in the recent past I had booked a LL for Soarin’ to make up for me missing it this morning as I was trapped in a glass case of chest pain and stress.

We rode at 6 and I loved this ride as I always do.

By this time Rebecca was starting to get tired and back painy so we decided to head out.

I saw the new lights on Spaceship Earth for the first time and all I wondered was why had they never done this before. It looked stunning and I took far more pictures than I will inflict on you here.

We made our way out to the exit.

I will add a note here to say that I am still in mourning for the loop music that now seems gone. I am sorry but this music IS Epcot.

Tonight’s dining was meant to be Bahama Breeze remember but we pulled that forward due to the Cheesecake Factory being too busy. With everyone being very tired we took the decision to just call at Taco Bell on the way home. I haven’t been to a Taco Bell for over a decade so had no clue what to order. Emily and I went in and muddled our way through the self order board thing and emerged with some food. It was $40.

We drove on to the villa and whilst we ate, called Louise to check in on her after her eventful day. Tom and Freddie went in the pool for a bit and then bed happened.

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……

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…….

Booked It, Packed It….

It’s done. We are booked for an overseas holiday and surely with just two weeks to go, not even the raging incompetence of our government can scupper those plans now? I mean, according to their latest “dead cat” nonsense leak to the press, I may have to convert my GBP to Pounds, Shillings and Pence before then paying for some Euros if they have their way, but by hook or by crook (and they are all that) we should be on that plane.

Oh, so I got my refunds then?

Nope. Well yes, I have now, from Aer Lingus at least, but when we booked last Monday I had not. That refund only hit my account yesterday.

The second Aer Lingus promise of “about a week” did not happen and I was still waiting for the funds to hit my account after a third chase of them this time via their Twitter account. They confirmed the refunds had been processed and should be in my account in 5-7 days. It’s a familiar story, and I admire their consistency. I can never fathom how and why refunds take over a week to make it through the banking system. When I paid for these holidays they got their money the moment I clicked the button on their website. Having worked in banking a million years ago, even then funds did not get sent by steam packet. Sigh.

At least Floridatix were brazenly upfront in telling me it will be “up to” 60 days before I see any of my money back. So I haven’t been chasing them. If I see a penny before day 59 I will be truly gobsmacked.

So having flexed my credit facilities to book the thing, I was hopeful that this time Aer Lingus would be true to their word. We had to get stuff booked as the admin to actually have a holiday now is similar to buying a house and you all know how much we enjoyed that experience. Leaving it any later would add to the not inconsiderable stress that booking it actually was. We have to fill out what looks like a Spanish ESTA, but cannot complete it until we are 48 hours from departure, arrange tests of course and then before returning to the UK, complete a passenger locator form, but not until 48 hours before our return. The latter should be fun on a mobile phone with “free” WiFi in the hotel.

In the flush of post booking excitement I went crazy and bought some new shorts. Madness. as I have several perfectly acceptable pairs that I have only had for 20 years.

Our travelling party is quite a large one for this trip. Louise and I are of course going, joined by Rebecca, Tom and Freddie (who are traveling out a few days earlier than everyone else), Emily and her boyfriend Mikey and my Mum and Dad. It is a mini-invasion of Gran Canaria.

Whilst we have done some time at a beach on several occasions over the years in Florida, we haven’t been on a non US beach type holiday for over twenty years. We did an All Inclusive to Alcudia, I would guess around 2002 and the experience was so average we’ve done Florida for every holiday since. Having read the reviews for the place we have booked I am very hopeful of better this time around. Am I as excited about going away on this trip as I would be for a WDW trip. Don’t be silly, but it will still be nice to be away with the family in the sunshine, eating stuff and not working.

We now have to start the prep seriously. We are very rusty at this leaving the house thing, never mind going abroad. Last week we had tickets to go and watch Jonathan Pie at the King George’s Hall in Blackburn. Firstly, we almost got the night wrong, thinking it was on Friday and it was only an email reminder from the venue on Thursday that prevented us from missing out. Then we couldn’t find the tickets. So with minutes to go before having to leave the house, having located some proper outside trousers, we were frantically working out if we could get in or not.

Thankfully, the box office were able to reprint them and we got in, but it did feel like we had forgotten how to operate in these matters. This does not auger well for the logistical exercise of getting to a different country with everything we need.

Anyway, we are currently as prepared as we can be I think. I have three pairs of new shorts and Louise bought a bottle of P20. What else could we need? Rumours started circulating towards the end of the week that the traffic light system and things like tests on returning home could be scrapped soon. The irony of this happening so shortly after we had ordered our tests was not lost on me, but I will take the financial hit to be rid of some of the faff involved in having a holiday.

I have to say though, via a link from the TUI website to one of their partners, as long as you are fully jabbed, for Spain/The Canaries, the testing was much cheaper than I expected. We don’t need a fit to fly, just the vaccine and then we (at the time of booking) needed a test before flying home and another two days after landing. That package only cost £20 per person. I resent any extra cost but that is a round of Starbucks at the airport money, so it is tolerable I suppose.

With the changes announced late last week, that test before flying home is now not required and we just need to do the one within two days of arriving home. At least now the risk of being stranded overseas due to a positive test is removed, although of course we would not travel with COVID should we actually have it!

Trip wise pretty much everything is sorted. I am unused to this package lark, where you book everything in one go with one company. Where’s the fun in that? I have to sort transport to and from the airport UK side still but other than that, we’re good. Our flight out leaves at 7am. That will involve a very early get up and a very brave and willing taxi person to do the honours. We could be hitch hiking there. Similarly our return flight touches down at 1.25am. That’s a grim taxi ride home too. We may end up doing the airport parking thing instead. We’ll see.

I can’t remember if I posted details of our hotel previously so I will do so now. We are staying all inclusive at the Riu Vistamar in Gran Canaria.

It has decent reviews, sunshine, pools and buffets. That’s all I need to know really.

With a nod to the elephant in the room of any potential return to the US. We are no nearer it seems. There have been some vague noises out of the US about plans being made to facilitate and allow international tourists but it still feels like a 2022 thing to me. Watching the odd vlog, and I have only managed to watch exactly that number recently, I feel very distant from the place. I’m sure that’s temporary but it is of concern nonetheless. It does feel like whatever place we will eventually return to may never be the place we used to visit.

Anyway, in two weeks (tomorrow) we will be at the airport once again, having a holiday and that is not to be sniffed at. All that remains now is to pack, lose two stones and remember how to leave the house.

Till the next time……

Aering My Grievance

Wouldn’t it be nice to hear some positive upbeat holiday news around here? News of refunds effortlessly winging their way to my bank account and our new alternative holiday being booked without any hiccups and us having a countdown of sorts to a much needed getaway.

Yep that would be lovely.

Of course, no such thing has happened. Aer Lingus are not covering themselves in glory in relation to their 5-7 day “promise” for that refund. It was requested on the 27th of August and here we sit drumming our fingers still.

I chased them about three days ago. Sure they are busy and no doubt have a lot to get through but I did check in with another affected Aer Lingus customer and blog reader who requested their refund after mine and of course there’s arrived very quickly and without faff.

Sigh.

Anyway I feel much better and totally reassured as I was told that the refund request would now be passed to their Priority Team who would deal with it urgently. Firstly it’s always nice to know you weren’t a priority in the first place and secondly when I asked how long the refund would take now it sat with the Jedi Masters of refunds I was told they could not give me a timescale but maybe within a week or so. I think we need a chat about the word Priority.

For someone who plans holidays in advance, being a few weeks away from our potential departure and not being able to book is an alien concept but here we are. I can feel my ire rising (not a euphemism) and I shall be having a chat with my Irish flying friends very early next week.

Away from the will they won’t they of our holiday (listen to those cheers), it has been brought to my attention this week about some Disney vlogger drama. This is actually the second week in a row this has happened.

Last week I caught wind of some UK Youtubers who had sparked controversy by getting to Florida by first spending two weeks in, I think it was Crotia and the Disney online community had gone berserk at them. I think what they did was called “not reading the room”.

There was a lot of anger at them doing this with everyone else suffering cancelled plans and having no hope of getting there anytime soon. I didn’t care very much about this as I had never watched any of their videos and probably never will but I put it down to that age old demon where some folks start getting some attention and traction for their online activity and they begin to crave it and do stupid things.

At its most extreme I’ve heard of some (non Disney) Youtuber having a bath in bleach to generate views. That did not end well. In this case I suppose they thought being the first UK folks out there would bag them a lot of attention. Well it did but in the form of anger, unsubscribes and vitriolic comments.

I don’t really know how that little storm ended but hopefully it involved those folks getting a little perspective about online attention and the drug it can become.

This week’s drama involved The Trackers. Apparently they have been dropped from the media event list by Disney and Universal due to some “content” they posted a decade ago. It’s not really about that as far as I can see. As ever it seems there is someone or someones out there on a mission to bring them down and they have been bombarding Disney and Universal via multiple email addresses insisting they cut their ties with The Trackers due to this content that they say is not in line with Disney’s/Universal’s values. There are rumours of who that is but I won’t share those as there is no proof but suffice to say the theory is another vlogger is trying to knock them off their spot and take their place.

Success in any sphere attracts trolls I suppose. I mean I get bombarded all the time with jealousy and sabotage about my blog which has had pretty much the same number of readers for a decade. You can’t buy that sort of consistent mediocrity.

When you are The Trackers and are getting more views than quite a few TV programmes now you are always going to get divided opinions. It’s clearly too simple to say if you don’t like them don’t watch them it seems. They are and have been a consistently excellent source of information for Florida travellers over the years. Sure some of their content won’t please everyone, but how sad do you have to be to spend your time trying to destroy what somebody else has achieved.

Hopefully they will be reinstated soon but in the meantime I hope they will be laughing all the way to the bank in their Tesla and giving that troll(s) the finger as they drive by.

Shall we reconvene here next week, when my refund will absolutely have happened and our new trip will be booked, just in time for the October lockdown to drive a coach and horses through it? October lockdown? Well, the government have both not ruled it out and said they have no plans for one so I think that’s crystal clear as usual. Two days ago vaccine passports were happening but in the 48 hours since they have seemingly reviewed all the factors, that presumably they lost down the back of the couch on Thursday and now they are “definitely not going ahead with those”.

It’s the hope for competence that kills you.

Till the next time……

Can We Go On Holiday? Yes, We (Probably) Can-ary.

After a week off work you’d imagine I would be rested, relaxed and raring to go. I’m not, but it’ll take more than a week of mowing grass, answering work emails on my phone and not lying in as long as I would have liked to achieve that.

As the week drew to an end both Louise and I also seem to have inherited some of Emily’s (non Covid) illness which isn’t that bad (for me at least) other than it prevents sleep. Louise is doing less well.

My birthday on Tuesday was a quiet one and I don’t think it will surprise or upset anyone to hear that I have had better birthdays but it was lovely to see family and get lots of lovely gifts. Most gifts were clothes which seemed to be a family wide conspiracy to tell me I am overdue a new wardrobe. I am set for any upcoming holiday now with many new T shirts.

We’ve been searching for that alternate holiday destination this week and I think we are there. An all inclusive hotel has been identified in Gran Canaria for our October dates and as soon as anyone fancies sending me a refund we will be booking that. The hotel is called Riu Vistamar on Gran Canaria. Hopefully those refunds will be any day as Aer Lingus said theirs would take 5-7 days. We sit here on the cusp of the end of that period so we will see what happens.

Floridatix received my tickets early in the week and quickly issued our cancellation invoices. Of course for some reason it will now take up to sixty days to actually see the cash returned. I mean they’ve only had thousands of my pounds in their bank since late 2019 so that seems fair.

Shout out to Matt (villa owner) who had that deposit back with me almost before I requested it. Travel Republic, through which we had booked our Universal stay, also refunded our small deposit within a couple of days.

My fear of the US opening shortly after we book for elsewhere is subsiding. Whilst there are small hints that the US know they are coming under increasing pressure to come up with a plan, I still think it will be 2022 before we are allowed in. Regardless, it will definitely be then before we can return now. What state the parks will be in with all these changes and how silly flight prices might be we can only imagine.

I think the US has a little bit of time to go yet to ride out their current wave and we will have our own new surge in cases with schools now back. I am hopeful for 2022 but I have lived in that naïve state for almost two years now so nobody hold your breath.

Had you told me in September 2019 as we left the parks for the last time on our most recent trip that we wouldn’t be back for the best part of three years (at least) not only would I have wept (more) but I may have chained myself to the flagpole on Main Street. Having been so often we were, I think, definitely at the stage of taking these trips for granted. Never again.

So in just under a month we should be overseas (probably…I just cannot bring myself to think about any travel plans as concrete), enjoying the sunshine, unlimited food and not being at work. It will be lovely of course, but just not quite the holiday I would have wanted. Who knows, maybe I will rediscover my love of these types of holiday. They were all I knew until the age of ten. I’m not kidding anyone with that, especially myself, but excuse my positive spinning after what feels like endless whinging (I don’t need to tell you that, right?).

How is my beach body diet going? Well, let’s just say that I am no heavier now than I was last week, and at this stage let’s embrace that for the positive step that it is.

And with that I shall leave you. We appear to be in for a heat wave this week so make the most and try to imagine you are somewhere in Florida if you can.

Till the next time……

Yearn To Fly

It’s been a long and winding road, starting in November 2019, but the trip that never was is now officially dead.

After five sets of dates and endless stress and faff, on Wednesday Aer Lingus postponed the start of their Manchester to Orlando service until (at least) mid December. We all knew this was coming of course, but it is still a big kick in the nads when it does.

I knew that something would need to give in the next week or so as we had balances coming due in early September that I would definitely not be paying if there was no border news. Aer Lingus, thankfully, in a way, put me out of my misery….and into a new, different misery instead.

Previously when flights were cancelled we simply picked the whole trip up and moved it into the future, naively believing that by “that time” everything would be back to normal. Not this time my friends. With the US infected with lots of Delta and even more stupidity, I can see no prospect of travel to the US in the coming months.

So on Wednesday and Thursday I began the very sad and labour intensive task of cancelling everything and this time requesting refunds. I called Aer Lingus who tried to tempt me into vouchers with a 10% bonus, but there’s seems little point in that really. So full refunds were requested and then I sent back all our theme park tickets, requesting our refund for those too. They expire at the end of 2021 and I think there is zero chance of a trip before then. I can’t tell you how upset I was sending those back. It was a physical manifestation of the death of our plans. I was also very scared that the postal service will lose them and that envelope contained lots of cash value in those little plastic cards. Until I get receipt confirmed and the refund processed that will be something else to worry about.

For a few weeks now we have been chatting about what to do as and when our October WDW plans died. Ultimately our need for some sort of holiday has kicked in and we are now looking at alternative countries for a different kind of holiday, just to get some sun, relaxation and fun. I have all kinds of reservations about that. The testing regime, the ability of our government to screw holiday makers over by changing the colour of a country either just before you go or whilst you are there and the fact that frankly it isn’t Florida, are all on my mind.

However, I will be happy to go, and just not be on Teams or mowing grass for a little bit.

As far as Florida plans go, well we have none and that is never a state I like to be in. Our position now is that we will wait for the border to be opened and then see how many organs we need to sell to fund the surely ridiculous flight prices that will be used to gouge every penny from the pent up demand.

It would be par for the course now for the US to open their border, probably just after we press the “book” button on some trip to the Canaries or similar. Sure, I am feeling sorry for myself. I earned it.

When looking for these alternative holidays the constant issue of no hotel being in Florida or being operated by Disney persists. Those that “look” nice then have unsettling amounts of horrifying reviews on Trip Advisor. There’s also the fact that we haven’t holidayed anywhere else for twenty years or so (as Louise constantly reminds me) and that makes me scared of the unfamiliar.

I suspect we will find something suitable and have a really nice time, but of course, it will not shock you to know that I will be thinking about the next WDW trip the whole time, like some unfaithful ex.

We did get our Vero DVC element transferred to a credit note. We have 36 months to use that. Should be fine. right? In my gut, I suspect it will probably be next summer before we get back over there and it will probably need to be before the end of August as Freddie will start school/reception in September. We may have to sell the house to fund that trip. I mean, I like this house, but needs must!

We did briefly consider moving the trip to January, but there are only so many times you can get hurt and keep coming back for more. If by some miracle the US open up say on January 1st then you will probably have to wrestle me to the ground to stop me booking us a trip for that month. Sure, it’ll be cooler/chilly at night but not as bloody chilly as Lancashire will be!

In more cheery news I have a week off work next week. How I have enjoyed everyone I talk to at work asking “Are you going away anywhere?”. I refrain from explaining my two year struggle to get on a plane and just smile and say, “No, just relaxing at home.” If only they knew…..

In reality I will be mowing stuff no doubt, answering work emails on my phone and not lying in as long as I would like to. Oh and dieting. If we are going anywhere near a beach or pool any time soon, then for the sake of others, things need to change in a big way and quickly. With just over a month till we go, I figure I can lose say three pounds?

So as I remember sitting in our old house, watching the news of the pandemic around April 2020 and telling Louise that our August 2020 trip would be absolutely fine as there was no way this thing would go on that long, let us all marvel at my spectacular ability to get things wrong. If that trend continues in the same vein then any day now the US border will be open and I’ll be seething on a flight to somewhere else.

Fingers crossed that the return to school over here (I know Scotland are back already and seeing this) doesn’t see a huge spike in cases that may lead to even our second choice of holiday being threatened. I can’t say it often enough. You can keep destroying my overseas holiday plans as much as you like but I am not booking a bloody holiday in the UK!

Till the next time…….

I Seethe At Genie

It’s one of those weeks were horrific events somewhere in the world make the trivial nonsense here even more offensive. Usual caveats apply in that regard.

There was a brief moment around Wednesday, with a couple of White House Covid briefings that some semblance of hope surfaced about border news. It turned out that they were all about the booster jab programme and nobody even said the word border.

It was silly to hope but it’s what we do I suppose. With the passing of that potential update, hope for October is now all but extinguished I think. I am prepared to be wrong yet again but I don’t see us being allowed to go. It feels to me that the US administration are completely focussed on the Delta variant (and of course more so Afghanistan now) and getting that under some sort of control before they do anything. Battling with the governors trying their best to extend the pandemic is probably taking precedence over allowing tourists in.

The White House announced it was extending the travel restrictions for Canada and Mexico until September 21st this week so we know from that, the UK will be the same until that date and most likely beyond.

Now of course the thinking and theories could be that they will get those boosters delivered before they open the border. That would be a good few months. Overall, I guess they just want to get case levels down to a more reasonable level. As ever, the frustration is the lack of transparency. Most folks just want to know they aren’t going if they aren’t.

It’s tragically sad in its own little first world problem kind of way.

Then to kick a man when he is down Disney unveiled their plans to introduce paid for FastPasses. I honestly couldn’t be arsed to research it in much detail but I will share my uncalled for uninformed opinion regardless of course, as is the way on the internet.

As usual, it appears more complex than it needs to be but I think it’s $15 a day which on its own in the scheme of the holiday doesn’t sound too bad. But for UK folks doing 10 to 14 days, for a family of four it adds up to between £600 and £800 to your holiday. Sure you don’t have to buy it every day, but it just makes for a two tier system in the parks. You can probably ride all the lesser attractions, but if you want to get anywhere near Rise Of The Resistance or Flight Of Passage as examples, then you are paying extra for the Lightning Lane stuff, which, however you cut it, is a bit of a piss take. I know all the parks do it now, but any model where the park makes more money by being a bit crap at processing large volumes through rides only benefits one side of that deal. Who am I to suggest that they may intentionally inflate wait times to up their revenues.

Maybe the free version will manage the crowds in a way that will reduce the longest wait times, but you have to think that if that happened nobody would be buying the paid for versions and as much as we all love Disney, I think we know how that one goes.

I’m sure park reservations and the new Genie thing give WDW unimaginable data and insight on crowds in the parks and will allow them to marshal folks to quieter areas and rides and I can see the theory that this will make for a more enjoyable experience. I doubt it will get you onto the headliner rides though unless you get your hand in your pocket. Having shelled out over $20 to park, $15 a day per person on top or potentially unlimited amounts of the Lightning thing sticks in the throat a bit as it isn’t as if the park tickets are particularly cheap. It would have been a nice gesture to say, because of this we commit to not increasing park ticket prices for two years or similar. Again, this is pure fantasy I know. They are there to make money.

It’s another stage in the slow death of the feeling of excitement surrounding these holidays. It’s becoming a dark cloud of doubt and uncertainty hanging over us rather than a beacon of joy and excitement that we can look forward to. We don’t stay on-site typically but I have seen many folks bemoaning the slow removal of almost every previous benefit of doing so. It makes you wonder what the thinking is behind it. Maybe WDW has data that says that off-site guests are more profitable? Hard to imagine that is true but why else would they upset their own resort guests?

Usually I am very supportive of any change WDW come up with. I trust them to protect the experience and brand. It’s probably a symptom of my incredible frustration that we cannot be there, or even know when we might, that I am lashing out like some bitter ex.

I did briefly look at ADRs early in the week, mainly just to try and remember what it used to be like doing exciting things like planning. The pickings were not just slim, they were skeletal. I appreciate that I missed the 60 day window due to apathy and no belief that we will be able to go, but unless you plan to eat at Disney Springs there is nothing to book. I managed to find a couple of things we would be happy with but I’m just creating more things to cancel later.

I know it’s not like me but I will end with a couple of small positives, that are probably too late to save our current dates but may go someway to helping with later ones. On Friday (I think it was) the US delivered over one million jabs in a day for the first time in months. Even Trump endorsed getting the jab at his latest MAGA rally. He was booed of course as you can’t fix stupid, but maybe some of his less challenged followers will take the hint that all the MAGA dolts undermining the vaccine have had it. If that continues and cases start to plateau who knows, we may get in.

In summary, I am worried about how I am starting to feel about WDW and Florida. I have a real fear that things will never be a special as we perceived them to be in the past and if that is the case what a shame that will be. All this angst may well melt away once we are back to being able to go when we want to. In the meantime I shall continue to spit my dummy all over the interwebs in a vain attempt to make myself feel better.

The truly tragic part of that is that you have to tolerate or avoid it as you see fit.

Till the next time…….

Border Whine

As hope for our October trip dwindles day by day now in a maelstrom of DeSantis testosterone and MAGA asshattery, even the airlines are joining in. Midweek, TUI dropped an enormous bollock and updated their website to say all flights/holidays to Florida were cancelled until November.

They corrected the error fairly quickly but not before Disney Facebook went into understandable meltdown, which was only superseded by the outrage of it being an error. The last thing thousands of desperate Florida obsessives need is someone dicking about and making errors like that.

For us, I don’t see a scenario in which borders are opened in time now. Aside from whether we actually want to go into the COVID soup of Florida, I think it is now only a matter of time until we get cancelled again and I wouldn’t be shocked to discover that the TUI cock up comes to fruition relatively soon. The dates for which flights are being cancelled now is edging towards our departure date. Virgin have now gone to September 23rd before you can book a flight to Orlando on their website.

In an attempt to find the glass half full, at least we won’t lose the money we paid for our Vero stay via DVC points. Next week I will be able to convert that to a credit note. As long as that has a 50 year expiration date we may even get to use it at some point.

What we do when the seemingly inevitable cancellation happens will depend on how we feel the land lies I suppose. If there is definite news of the border opening or at least some clue that they are planning on it then I guess we push the thing back a month and go again, again. If we are still in this endless limbo then we may make the call to push it out until next year and go and have a holiday somewhere that we are allowed to go (I have no idea where that is or might be) and just get some sun. We all desperately need a break of some sort.

The real problem to me is, when does this get better? Vaccine rates in the US aren’t low because they can’t roll them out. Folks just won’t take it. Where does that lead us? In circles is my guess and even by saying, well, we will sack it off and go next year, what will have changed or improved by then?

As you all no doubt know, Florida and much of the South are drowning in COVID, driven by vaccine resistance, idiotic religious dogma and politically driven stupidity. The very obvious facts that unvaccinated areas are seeing massively worse outcomes seems to be ignored. We are truly in a post truth scenario. The upshot is that this will prolong the pandemic and resultant travel restrictions, probably beyond our dates and I am not OK about it.

But then I think, US folks can currently come to the UK, fully jabbed, with no quarantine, and large parts of the south of that country are like a scene from The Walking Dead, so maybe the US could reciprocate. But as much as I always thought one state’s situation would not affect Biden’s countrywide decisions, he has to bear in mind that Florida is a huge tourist destination. I guess if he only allows double jabbed folks in, they will fare better than the yeehaws and rednecks hiding behind their bibles and MAGA hats like some sort of crucifix.

Uggh….

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For someone who has been so loyal and so obsessed with Florida holidays it is heart-breaking to notice that as more time passes something strange is happening. Of course I miss it and at times a vlog, a memory or even a smell can evoke ridiculously strong emotions of sadness that we have no prospect of returning anytime soon. But at the same time, the longer it is that we can’t go, the more used to not going I become.

I suppose that is just one tiny example of how life will never be the same again for so many people in so many ways. Now, knowing me, as soon as there is news and progress my massive obsession will resume. I guess it’s the endless unknowing void of just moving the whole bloody thing time after time. I’m sure many in my situation would even welcome Biden following New Zealand’s lead and at least putting us out of our seemingly endless misery. New Zealand have already said their borders will be closed until at least the start of 2022.

I would be as equally unsurprised now if Biden either opened up the border next week or said it will be shut until next year.

It’s amazing how the lack of the dangled carrot of a holiday can affect the mood. It hasn’t helped that it has rained non-stop for about three weeks now and the dreary chill of Autumn is hurtling towards us, but I do seem to be a resident, nay King, of the State of Meh.

Never has the need for sunshine been so great.

Till the next time…..