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 Eight

I do not have to tell you that I was awake at some ridiculous hour today. I don’t have to, but I will. 4am again. I dozed till 6am. Maybe this is my life now?

Breakfasts were had by many, readying happened and we finally climbed into the van at 8.20am. We were returning to Magic Kingdom today hoping that the crazy crowds we had seen so far had eased off a little as we were now on the 10th of January, one of the quietest times at WDW……once.

Hook 312 welcomed us into its warm bosom at 8.50 and once again we walked all the way in admiring the trams we could see parked up in another section of the parking lot. We took the monorail and whilst riding I took some very average photos….

and blew another $45 or so booking us a LL for Seven Dwarves Mine Train later. This meant on principle we would not be buying the Genie+ thing today. It was bound to be a lot quieter today though, right?

After once again waiting in the queue for several folks to work out how Magic Bands and fingers work, we were in. We decided to start with Big Thunder before the wait got too bad. The wait was too bad, showing a 60 minute standby. Instead we thought we’d get some breakfast for Freddie who didn’t have any at the villa, before trying Haunted Mansion. To keep him company we all got a second breakfast too.

We went to one of the stands in Frontierland and had breakfast sandwiches or Bear Claws. Like some sort of startled deer in the headlights once at the front of the queue, I panicked and ordered a Cold Brew Nitro with little clue what it was.

It was, it has to be said, absolutely awful, until a helpful daughter told me to put some Coffee Mate in it, which made it tolerable. Whilst we ate and drank I was watching the MDE app and the wait times. In that ten minutes Big Thunder showed 65 minutes, then 30, 50 and then returned to 65. Shambola? Just a bit.

Recognising that Big Thunder was not going to get any better today and wanting Freddie to experience it for the first time we braved it and everyone but Rebecca joined the queue.

I’d like to say it wasn’t as bad as it sounded….

but I can’t. It took an hour, not helped by one of the two tracks going down for about fifteen minutes whilst we waited. Splash Mountain was at this point down for maintenance, which would mean Big Thunder wait times were bound to be horrible.

It was, as ever, a fun ride and one that Freddie really enjoyed. We wandered back to Rebecca who was outside the Liberty Tree Tavern.

Tom pretended that Freddie wanted an ice cream so that he could have one, so they wandered off in search of some. I sat refreshing the app, studying wait times and tutting. It was looking pretty grim to be honest and if we were to have any sort of day, I would have to give in and fork out for Genie+, so I did.

As we waited for Tom and Freddie to return, I have to say that I was in reflective mood and not really feeling the Disney Magic at this point. Why?

Well, so far today I had paid $45 for Seven Dwarves Mine Train, $79 on Genie+ and $65 on breakfast. We had stood in a queue for an hour, and managed on ride. It was now almost midday.

Over the years I have been an enormous and endless advocate of the WDW experience. I will probably say this again before this trip report is over, but had this been our first ever trip it is unlikely we would have fallen in love with the place as we did all those years ago. Things felt, at times, like a normal theme park, which is probably one of the harshest things you could say about WDW.

Trying to block out the financial pain and the feeling of being rinsed, I booked us onto Buzz Lightyear for 12 o’clock. Funny how there are LL slots immediately but the standby is over an hour. It’s almost as if they are forcing gullible chumps like me into buying Genie+.

Whilst we waited for Tom and Freddie to return a cavalcade came by. I was delighted to discover that we could watch this without additional charge.

Tom and Freddie were still not back, held up in another long queue, this time for Dole Whips, so the rest of us wandered down to Tomorrowland and waited on a bench outside Monster’s Inc.

We walked onto Buzz and this time I rode solo, scoring an average 163,000.

Emily, showing Freddie no mercy, as it should be.

Rebecca and Tom said they would take Freddie on Astro Orbiter next. I would pay another $45 not too, as there would be Bear’s Claw over everything, so Emily and I opted for the People Mover. Discovering a 45 minute wait for Astro, they decided against it and went off to meet Buzz whilst Emily and I did a loop.

Tron still wasn’t ready.

Whilst riding I booked us all on the Tea Cups at 1pm. Normally I would avoid this like the plague too after a distasteful incident some twenty years or so ago, after a buffet breakfast at 1900 Park Fayre, but we were getting every dollar’s worth of value out of Genie+ today and if that meant vomiting over some four year olds, so be it.

Tom rode with Freddie so they could spin all they wanted. I rode with the girls for the first time since the incident above so we were filled with nostalgia and a shared desire not to even touch the sliver wheel in the middle, so it was a sedate ride.

I had booked Barnstormer next. See how Genie+ allows you to easily book all the headliner rides? That was not until 2pm so we rode Dumbo via the standby line, waiting just 20 minutes. As we were boarding it started to rain so we get considerably moist as we rode.

Being damp already, Freddie was allowed to get damper in the water playground thing. I restroomed and wandered off to get us all some sugar. It had been a while.

Why I only took a photo of two I don’t know. We didn’t share, as if I had to tell you that.

Freddie was very wet by now….

and was welcoming all comers to the gun show….

I had a bit of a speed walk around the park trying to find him a dry T Shirt to wear. This was much harder than I imagined it would be and I had to go all the way to the gift shop at Winnie The Pooh to find one. It was not a perfect fit, but it was dry.

Now, we could ride Barnstormer.

An exciting thirty seconds.

On this tour of headliner rides, I had booked us onto Aladdin’s carpets next so we walked across the hub to get there.

On a day when I was feeling very grumpy and non-magical, one of those “perfect timing” things happened as we were walking. A cavalcade came just as we got to this spot so we had a front row view(ish)….

My ability to have characters not look at my camera is second to none….

We boarded our carpet at 2.35, as more rain came down.

It was now 2.45. We had an ADR at 3.10, so I thought we would kill that time with yet another headliner….

I honestly cannot remember the last time I did this. I’m not sure the girls ever had. I may have last seen it with my parents all those decades ago.

Having sat through it, I understand why.

It also lasted longer than I had anticipated and were now a few minutes late for our Skipper’s Canteen reservation. I had checked in via the app mid-show but now sped ahead to let them know we had arrived whilst the others found the stroller and followed along.

We were seated at 3.25, eager to experience the place for the first time.

Rebecca and I had the It Tastes Like Chicken, Because It Is

Emily had what I wrote down as “Curry”

Freddie had Crunchy Chicken

Tom, noodles

Freddie’s Kid’s Menu selection included a dessert…

The bill was $150 including tip. The verdict? It was good. Nothing spectacular and not one we would be desperate to do again, but would if you know what I mean?

It was now time for our very expensive ride on Seven Dwarves (could also be a film title) and on our way over there, our cavalcade of cavalcades continued.

Like some sort of death star tractor beam in human form, I drew them in….

I have to admit to not knowing who this is….

I found Aurora’s expression borderline offensive. I am not a piece of meat….

I think whiskey may have been taken….

We rode. The only thing that made it worth the $45 investment was Freddie’s excitement levels waiting to board. Seeing that kind of unbridled joy and giddiness was lovely.

Philharmagic was a walk on. I’ve not been using that phrase very often have I?

Here we are, walking on.

Here’s a photo of no queue. Enjoy.

Because it was half empty the Cast Members were allowing folks to sit down before moving all the way to the end of their row. I understood it, but could not agree with it. They are just forming bad habits that will impact everyone when it’s fuller.

Makes me uneasy….

You will have noticed a lack of dessert at Skipper’s Canteen? We decided to rectify that now with something sweet. We found a table outside of Gaston’s Tavern and I got drinks and Cinnamon Rolls for the girls and I. Tom fancied ice cream so he and Freddie went off on another quest.

They deserve two photos.

We all sat and sugared up. Freddie got his hands on the camera again. I have edited heavily…

We had a LL booking for Haunted Mansion at 6.30 so that was our new destination. I’d like to say Freddie still had the camera but I cannot.

It’s always better to ride Haunted Mansion in the dark in my view.

We had another LL at 7pm for Winnie The Pooh so we went straight there.

I said earlier in the day that we endured the one hour wait for Big Thunder as it wouldn’t get any better today. Obviously now it was showing a 30 minute standby. So off we went to ride it again.

Again, a ride better for the dark I think.

There was more excitement….

and prettiness…..

That was as good a way to end the day as any and we made our way to the exit, reaching Main Street just as the fireworks were starting. We had plans to watch them another night so didn’t want any spoilers tonight. We kept walking and not looking back.

Oddly, no doubt due to higher crowd levels than a crowd scene from Ghandi, we were being directed out via a backstage area.

I allowed myself one photo, to capture us being back stage.

By default we chose the resort monorail and headed back to the TTC. The trams were running but were very busy. It was very hectic and this time Tom ended up walking back to the car.

On the way home I put $30 of fuel in the tank and went through the traditional laughing at how cheap it was over here. We were home for 9pm and did some packing for our two day trip to Universal which started in the morning.

Till the next time…….

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

Having been so tired last night after being awake for almost 24 hours I can find no reasonable explanation for being awake at 6.20am. I could hear Freddie charging around the villa. Either that or Emily, Tom or Rebecca felt the need to be running up and down the landing. At around 6.45 I called Louise and had a chat. It wasn’t nice to once again have confirmation that she wasn’t with us, but at least these days video chatting makes long distances easier than this might have been some years ago. I can still remember buying a phone card and calling Louise’s Mum from Downtown Disney just once during one of our holidays.

My chat with Louise was interrupted as she got a call from the hospital about her Mum, so I made some breakfast whilst she took that. Sensible cereal for me, saving my calories for later and then Louise called back. I gave her a tour of the villa, which based on how impressive it was I’m not sure made her feel any better about being stuck at home. She chatted with everyone else and then we all showered, separately.

Once dressed I prepared Ryan for his tour of duty. Out went all the gubbins that he had been required to carry yesterday for the journey and in went all the theme park essentials and as it was 9 degrees outside, a hoodie. Other than that, we were all dressed as if it were August, other than Emily who had a jumper on. Having said that, Emily feels cold in August in Florida so no change there. It must be a mindset thing, but if I’m in Florida I’m in shorts and a T-Shirt (with a bum bag of course) regardless of the time of year.

We spent a bit of time figuring out which physical ticket belonged to which person as a couple of us were missing magic bands. By hook or by crook, with limited help from the My Disney Experience app, we got there. Sure I could have written everyone’s name on their ticket when I linked them but I live in a paperless digital world baby, don’t fence me in with your last century luddite paradigms.

We were ready.

We left the villa at 8.45 and drove past the nearby school where we saw all the pupils piling in for their day. I always dread driving past a school bus in the US. I know there are special rules about that and it feels like unless you stop dead and throw your keys from the car a SWAT Team is likely to take you out.

We turned right onto Funie Steed Road, which took us on a journey back in time past many of the villa developments we have stayed in over the years. Lindfields, Sunset Lakes and Emerald Isle all brought back memories of happy holidays.

Once we got to Formosa Gardens we were on familiar territory indeed and it was nice to get back onto Sherberth Road and on to Magic Kingdom. It does seem that the entire road infrastructure around WDW changes completely between each trip and today, after two and a half years seemed no different. I’m sure we used to turn left to get to the parks and now there was an off-ramp on the right. Luckily I am totally cool with change and adapted seamlessly. It took about twenty minutes. There was a fairly huge queue of cars at the main gate all desperate to hand over $25. We parked in….

Despite all the announcements of their return not long ago, there was no sign of any trams so we walked in. Did I mention it was busy?

One massive improvement since our last trip was the security checks at the parks. We have all endured retired gentlemen and ladies poking at our sacks with a stick and even queued up for the experience, but now, you just walk through a scanner and only a handful of folks are pulled to one side for the sack inspection. Once through security, a bit giddy at finally being back, the camera came out for a series of “why would you take pictures of that” shots.

With Louise not with us, somebody had to take on her role, so Rebecca announced she needed to go for a wee, denying my urge to sprint onto the monorail, or at least join the queue for it. So we waited, ever so patiently.

For those wondering, there was no mask requirement outside, but having somehow dodged the COVID bullet to get here, we all often masked up in crowded places, even outside, just so we could make every effort to have a full holiday.

Freddie’s bum bag game was strong.

After a ten minute wait for the monorail, we were on and heading towards the castle. We breezed through the ticket scan thing unlike, it seemed everyone else on the planet who appeared to be taking about ten minutes each to figure out how to get into the park and, well, finally, we were home.

That first walk up Main Street is always special. We took it all in whilst at the same time, looking at the MDE app to see what we might ride first. To say this had been a long journey, in every meaning of that phrase, is one of the largest understatements in the history of understatements. The number of twists and turns, rule changes, hopes, expectations and disappointments had long since become incalculable, so to finally be here, on Main Street, looking at the castle was surreal. I’m sure none of us could really take it in.

Based on the crowd levels we were seeing, finding the first ride to do without a long wait could be a challenge. As we tend to do, we turned left and we were headed for…

The walk to the ride wasn’t one during which we could really soak things in. High crowd levels, especially with a stroller, mean you have to constantly concentrate on the next pocket of space to walk into. This was not to change for the duration of the trip to be honest.

You can see Pirates already had a 30-minute wait posted, but we went in and only waited around 10. We had decided not to get Genie+ today, as we didn’t know how long we’d last in the park and we wanted to see what was possible without it. Plus of course I am tight.

Just as we were about to board our boat, Louise called so we arranged to call back after the ride. Freddie loved the ride. He’d done it before but of course, had no memory of it. Interestingly, the canon water splashes seemed to be off today probably due to it being chilly outside (unless you live in the North West of England).

As we left the ride we called Louise back as she was visiting Mary in hospital so we all had a chat with her as best we could. It was very loud, very bright with dodgy WiFi and Mary (Louise’s Mum) is hard of hearing. Apart from that, we had a good chat!

We made our usual way over to the Big Thunder and Splash. The latter was showing a 45-minute wait. We joined it and were glad we did as the day after today it closed for maintenance so this may have been our last ride in its current state.

It was a full 45-minute wait but worth it for Freddie’s reaction. He adored it.

As we boarded our log, the young couple behind us were challenged for not having masks on. They claimed ignorance and said they didn’t know they were needed. The Cast Member allowed them on but told them to go and get some. Firstly, I was surprised WDW didn’t have a supply to hand out to folks like this and secondly, I didn’t believe for a second they didn’t know. There are regular announcements, loads of signs and everybody else had one on. Maybe they do this on all the rides?

Next, I restroomed. It is important you know this. I had mobile ordered from Cosmic Rays (Yes, I can multi-task) in the queue for Splash, so we then headed in that direction. Rebecca, who of course could not ride Splash in her pregnant state, had been chatting to my Mum & Dad whilst we rode so we all had a chat with them as we made our way towards food. On the way, we spotted some of the Country Bears up on the balcony where clearly this chap had just stepped on some Lego.

We had hot dogs all round, (just fries for Emily) and a Chicken Sandwich for Rebecca.

That lot was $87.

Next, we headed down to Main Street as Rebecca and Tom wanted to do their gender reveal for their new arrival on Main Street.

We got the appropriately coloured balloon from the seller and then joined a queue for a photographer. Just as it was our turn, a cavalcade came by so we had to move to the pavement.

Emily cried.

We took our place in the middle of Main Street again and Freddie assumed the position. I proved why I am not employed as a photographer at WDW.

The proper photo went onto social media to let all family and friends know that they are having a boy.

As a reward for his modelling work, we went off to get Freddie an ice cream.

He approved.

We found a seat near The Plaza and he tucked in.

Based on some scary wait times on the app, we planned to do Philharmagic next and headed up through the castle to get there.

Even trying to find a spot to park the stroller was challenging for Tom but eventually, he returned and in we went. Freddie was on a sugar high!

Until we got to the start of the thankfully short queue.

As we entered the area just before the doors to the theatre open, Freddie got a bit confused in the darkness and held the hand of a chap in front of us, thinking it was me. The chap was very gracious and chatted to Freddie. The fact that he was in his 70s and about 18 stone did nothing for my self-confidence.

Finally now old enough to keep the 3D glasses on, Freddie was fully immersed in the experience, reaching out for the 3D effects through the show. The new Coco scene was there now of course and as ever the whole show is a delight.

Maintaining our search for a wait time below an hour we identified the Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor and headed that way. When we got there Freddie spotted Buzz and really wanted to do that. It was a 65-minute wait which I really did not fancy. Tom volunteered to take him on whilst the rest of us rode the People Mover and chilled out. At the last minute, Rebecca decided to join them on Buzz, mainly as it was one of the few things she could ride. Emily and I waited 30 minutes to get on the People Mover. Yep, 30 minutes.

We took in the sights for a bit on our way round.

Tron is huge!

Once we were done, Emily and I headed to the shops on Main Street whilst the rest continued to wait for Buzz. We did a lot of browsing and not much buying.

We did see another cavalcade come by though.

Alice wouldn’t leave it……

We were messaged to say they were off Buzz now and we met them in the queue for Laugh Floor.

A 30-minute wait was posted. That was probably more like 20, but long enough. The show was very clever and very enjoyable. Once we were done there it was 4pm and time to make our way out of the park to Wilderness Lodge for our ADR at Whispering Canyon.

Rebecca and her bump were struggling a little now so our pace was slow. We decided to take the car over rather than just take the boat as it was unlikely we would return to Magic Kingdom after eating. To save Rebecca the journey, Emily and I caught the monorail back to TTC and got the car whilst the other three caught the boat over to Wilderness Lodge. We took the resort monorail to avoid a queue at the normal one. I think we did this all trip to be honest.

During our monorail journey, the one downside of that route is you stop at the Contemporary. As we waited for guests to join and alight, in our compartment was a Mum with two kids. They were very young and I think the word is rambunctious.

As phrases were bellowed by the Mum like…

“Don’t you dare bite me….!!”

“That’s not safe!”

We thought it best not to turn round and look at what they were doing just in case the monorail was on fire. I am eternally thankful the girls, and now Freddie, never really inflicted that sort of behaviour on us in public.

The tram was running as we got to TTC and we boarded on the Villains side and headed to Hook. We made it to Wilderness Lodge after a wild goose chase caused by the onboard Sat Nav in the car. It was, how do you say, bobbins for the whole trip.

We arrived at 4.55 and found Rebecca, Tom and Freddie in the lobby. I checked in, had a wee (not simultaneously) and we were seated within a few minutes.

Our server was great fun. Much of the old school shenanigans are currently not in play, I guess due to COVID, but he still made it a very fun experience. As we waited for our food we chatted to Louise. It was of course still Christmas in WDW.

We ordered skillets all round, with Emily getting her own plant-based one. By George these were good.

Tom had four chocolate milkshakes (they are unlimited here) and some extra sausage and mash. We were all very full and extremely tired.

The table behind us was a bit weird. They were determined to make it a competition with the server and his banter, rather than just enjoy it. It became uncomfortably confrontational at times and kudos to our server for not forking them in their junk. I forgot to note down the amount of the bill but I think from memory it was around $200 including a good tip, which was that he should fork awkward guests in their junk from now on.

Thankfully the Sat Nav guided us home more easily tonight as we still had not found our bearings. I think we were all in bed at 7.30pm. These first full days get you like that!

Some thoughts on recent changes. We didn’t use Genie+ today. We knew we would be leaving around 4pm so it didn’t seem worth it. The park was MUCH busier than we were expecting and this remained the case throughout the trip, and despite this, today we managed to get a good amount of stuff done without too much excessive waiting, but we were able to cherry-pick things like Philharmagic that have less challenging loading times.

If we had wanted to do the big stuff today it would have been a lot of waiting. We did use the “free” Genie thing, in so much as we constantly refreshed the Tip Board to weep at the huge wait times for everything. I’ll not steal my own thunder and give you my overall thoughts on Genie+ etc now, but I’ll share as we get to the relevant points and examples along the way.

The overall theme though was just how long wait times were. The car parks were nowhere near full so my guess is that a mix of COVID staffing issues and perhaps allowing too many folks to get a park reservation for that staff capacity, mixed with some stuff not yet being open caused these. If you don’t have many of the shows, street entertainers, character meets and parades on, then all people can do is ride stuff, so the queues get inflated. Anyway, more thoughts later……

Moaning about crowds in the parks after such a long wait to be there seems churlish. I mean, I’m still going to do it, but I should at least acknowledge my churl as I do.

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…….

Lament and Lamination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Kungaloosh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…….

Room For One More?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Plaza

Crystal Palace

Whispering Canyon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…….

One Day Like This…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time……

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…….

One Date More…

Another day, another destiny, this never ending road to Kissimmee…

We move our trip another time, if we can’t go I’ll lose my mind,

One date more….

The time is early afternoon, the day last Wednesday. I’m at work, attending to things that don’t really matter, but somehow demand all my attention and time when somewhere in my “socials” I see the news.

Aer Lingus had cancelled all their Manchester flights up to the 30th of September. Well, that was just rude.

I’ll be honest. There was a period of around half an hour where I just sat and stared at my keyboard genuinely not knowing what to do. I mean, that is often the case with work related matters but seldom with holiday stuff.

Staring down the barrel of a fifth set of dates, the wind was well and truly out of my sails. I pissed about on the Virgin Atlantic website laughing out loud at their prices for our dates. I really, really did not want to have to pick up and move everything again, but switching airlines was clearly not an option.

We were moving. Again.

I think coming to that conclusion was the catalyst and kick up the arse I needed to spring into action. As much as I had cursed Aer Lingus for their out of the blue decision, when I phoned them, settling in for a few hours on hold, their automated message told me I could change my flights on their website. Virgin, take note. Also, Virgin, any time you want to give me my refund for the flights you cancelled over two months ago, that would be lovely. We are at the “our dog ate your refund” stage of excuses now. It’s bordering on fraud at this point.

The ability to move my own flights was excellent and allowed me to manipulate a series of dates to find the set that suited us best. I was resolute in my desire not to spend another bloody penny on this trip that never is, so my main criteria was getting flights for the same money.

It took some fiddling but I managed it. We had to sacrifice a day off the trip so it’s 16 days now, not 17, but to be honest the extra length of the trip was in honour of my 50th celebrations which seem so long ago now that it kinda feels right to sacrifice that specialness.

So with the flights moved, it was onto everything else. Our new dates are the 3rd of October to the 18th of October. We’ve been in October once before back in 1999, so we know it well.

A Collection of House of Cards' Best Frank Underwood Side-Eye GIFs | Frank  underwood, Kevin spacey, House of cards

I once again saluted the flexible nature of Travel Republic and Discount Florida Car Hire, who have made all this pissing about a lot easier. Alas, Hard Rock is not available for our new dates so we have defaulted to the Royal Pacific, as we have in the past, so no great hardship there.

I am getting incredibly efficient and effective at this now. Within about an hour I had cancelled/rebooked/moved almost everything I could. Two elements remained outstanding.

  1. Vero. Borrowing DVC points via a broker is probably not the wisest move in a pandemic as it seems we are likely to lose that cash now. Unless borders are still closed on August 20th, we won’t be able to get a credit note for our bookings. It stinks and I probably won’t use this company again, but it is what it is.
  2. Park tickets. The ones we bought, sometime in the late 90’s it now feels like, were set to expire at the end of September. My Dad’s tickets which at this point were somewhere in the postal system having only ordered them a few days ago may also have had a similar end date. An email to Floridatix was replied to a few hours later and it seems our dates had been extended and certainly for the ones I had in my grubby mits, I was able to book new park reservations for our new dates. Yesterday, my Dad’s tickets turned up and they are all park reservationed up now too.

I am very much over all this now. We just need to go on holiday.

I am refusing to let myself believe these dates will happen. I daren’t. Florida it seems is charging back to normality at lightning pace as we lurch back into more lockdown having pissed away all the benefits of the vaccine programme. These are just the latest set of dates in the diary. When we are sat on the plane, wheels up, I may let myself think we’re going.

Trying to fill my glass at least half way, if we go on these dates the 50th celebrations for Magic Kingdom will have started. I am telling myself that WDW will for all intents and purposes be back to normal by then and there will be lots of new things specifically for that anniversary that we may not have seen otherwise.

It will be Halloween. I mean, it’s Halloween in WDW from August, but you know what I mean. I don’t think we’ll do the Boo Bash thing as it seems pricey for what you get and I suppose we could try and do Halloween Horror Nights at Universal but it isn’t suitable for Freddie and Emily may well pass out with fear if we subject her to that. The weather will be slightly less hurricaney and we’ll be safely back in the UK before the half term crowds are unleashed on the US from the UK.

Last week brought all the usual speculation and reading between the lines on when travel may be allowed. Fauci was interviewed and seemed to suggest September and it makes you wonder if the airlines have been given some form of heads up to that effect that may have informed Aer Lingus’ decision?

Other rumours are that it will be late July/early August. From a UK perspective Johnson has seemingly painted himself into a corner, saying that July 19th is a “terminus” day and if that is the case there can be little wiggle room not to allow leisure travel at that point. The balance to that logic is that he also said we’d break the back of it in 12 weeks in late Spring 2020 so there is that plus an entire back catalogue of lies, incompetence and failure.

There are even leaks and rumours that double jabbed folks will be relatively unrestricted in terms of the faff required to fly etc. Nobody knows and if anyone thinks the clowns we have running the show have any sort of masterplan then I can’t help you. Literally every case of Covid we have in this country is the one that was allowed in from India by not adding them to the red list at the same time as Bangladesh and Pakistan. I know I piss and moan about governmental incompetence a lot but it makes me angry. Of course they are screwing our holidays up but think of all the businesses that had recruited and planned to open on June 21st. It’s gross negligence.

So as much I enjoy planning these trips, the ratio of five lots of planning to zero actual trips is not one I can get on board with. I am weary of it all and just want any form of certainty at this point.

Away from moaning about governmental incompetence and travel uncertainty, I will end today’s post with a Happy Father’s Day to my Dad and all those who assume that role in any form.

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From my perspective it is the best job in the world interspersed with occasional horror but it’s the only job I’ve ever had that I never wanted to change.

Join me here next week for more head in hands incredulity linked to the simple act of booking a holiday and going on it.

Till the next time………

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Fourteen

There aren’t many other combinations of three words which will strike fear into the heart of a WDW fanatic more than “last full day”. It is inevitable and yet ignored for as long as possible. It is a day for savouring the details, drinking in the sights, sounds and smells of a place you may not see for quite some time. whilst trying to have some fun at the same time.

Ours started with me awake at 7. There was no sign of anybody else so I made some coffee and ate a Voodoo doughnut as nature intended. It turned out that Freddie had been unsettled during the night and so, of course, had Rebecca and Tom so they were a little slow to get started this morning.

Louise and I did some packing whilst we waited for them to be ready and by about 10am we were loaded into the van for the final trip to a park this time around. Every time we had driven to the parks on this trip, as we stopped at a set of lights as we joined the 192 we had seen a billboard, which alternated between three adverts. One of them was for Hollywood Studios and had a large picture of one of the aliens from Toy Story. Over time, Freddie had invented a game of “there he is”, every time the picture appeared. He played it for the final time. Am I getting across that we were very aware that today was the last day?

I had already shifted some FastPasses to later to accommodate out later start at some point before leaving the villa and after parking in Simba, we boarded the tram knowing it was for the final time. I tried to stop myself blinking so that I could drink in as much as possible of every single thing.

It seemed busier than we’d seen today but however busy it was, we were going in hard today for a full-on fun fest. As we made our way up Main Street….

We came across the start of the trolley show and we stopped to enjoy that before completing the journey to Caseys where we spent a few minutes listening to the piano player.

We were headed to Pirates for our first FastPass of the day. That was handy as the standby queue was forty minutes already. We had ridden in all sorts of different configurations on all sorts of rides over the course of the trip but for this one, Freddie rode on my knee and it was a treat. I’ve ridden this ride a lot, many times with my own young girls, and to see at close hand his wonder and enjoyment made this one as special as those early rides with my own kids. It was lovely.

It was by now 11.30 and of course, time for lunch as nobody had eaten breakfast and my doughnut didn’t count. We decided on Pecos Bill’s as Emily had heard good things about the veggie options there. I mobile ordered from within the building and waited for it to be ready to collect as the others found a table.

Louise and I had Beef Nachos

Emily had the Veggie burger and Tom a normal one

My notes say Rebecca had “chicken”….

Your guess is as good as mine. Freddie had a Chicken Rice Bowl.

Emily was so blown away by her Veggie burger that she had to double-check it really wasn’t meat. She has raved about this burger at regular intervals since returning which may be useful to you if you have one of those odd veggie folks in your party.

Rebecca was detained in the loo for a while so we made our way toward Tomorrowland. With no news via WhatsApp of her following us, I waited at Small World whilst the others walked on to ride Ariel, which I know she would be upset I wasn’t a part of. With Rebecca now with me we caught up with everyone else just as they exited the ride.

Next, we walked all the way back to the Speedway where some actor from the 50’s seems to have been hanging around.

After a twenty-minute queue, Emily and I rode together for the first time in what must be twenty years. I seemed to do better than previous attempts, wrenching the steering wheel from one extreme to another to avoid the middle rail.

Freddie did some steering apparently, and can’t have done any worse than I did. We then moved on down to the People Mover for a sit-down. There was no queue, but as soon as we boarded the ride stopped for a couple of minutes, denying us of the cooling breeze.

Freddie did his best to help out.

Totally by accident I then took one of those photos that I suspect we’ll treasure for a long time.

Once we got moving again I took some now very much out of date “update” pictures of the Tron construction….

We all know that size isn’t everything but it does look mightily impressive. I can’t wait to ride it.

Louise then took in some sunshine whilst the rest of us rode Space Mountain. For the first time many years, we were directed to the left-hand track. I’m not saying it’s wilder than the right but it was not possible for me to tense what I needed to for long enough and in the end just had to relax everything and scream.

To clam the nerves we got an iced coffee from the Joffrey’s nearby. Despite me clearly being an internet sensation and a black belt at blogging, this is one of the many reasons why I don’t do the same on Instagram….

Having polished off our drinks we quickly made our way over to Branstormer for our FastPass. There were just a few minutes left on our window so Rebecca, Tom, Freddie and I hurried and made it just in time.

This queue afforded us a better view of Tron….

I used the fandangled thing on my camera which allows me to point the viewfinder backwards to capture Freddie enjoying it for the second time.

At first, he maybe wasn’t too sure….

But he soon settled into it…

We met back up with Emily and Louise before riding Buzz. We were doing some serious crisscrossing of the park to get in as many rides as we could now. I inflicted a justified and crushing defeat on Emily, reclaiming my crown for at least one more year. We then made our way over to Liberty Square to take in the Muppets history show.

We paused at the castle to take some photos whilst it was relatively quiet there. Freddie’s nap did not stop me capturing him in this iconic location.

We spent a decent amount of time here, doing lots of last day photography.

We found a place on a nearby wall on which to sit as we watched.

We enjoyed the show and it’s a great addition to an area of the park most would just previously just walk through to get somewhere else.

We wandered a shop or two before heading back to the castle for the impending show. It’s difficult to reconcile what I will say next to the arctic sideways rain currently going on outside my UK window, but as we stood watching the show, I could feel the sweat, generated by the phenomenal heat, trickling down my back and other places. Nice.

With Emily in tears andFreddie now awake, new photographic opportunities opened up to us, and we tried to recreate the partners statue with mixed results….

The Dance Party parade came by just then so we watched that for a bit.

Freddie got to dance with Chip and/or Dale and this last hour or so just sort of fell into place as a lovely way to end our time at Magic Kingdom. It’s often the things that aren’t rides that stick in the memory the longest.

We made our way down Main Street through the shops. Freddie got a Mrs Potato Head to go with the male version he had back home and we ended up near the flag pole, deciding what to do for food. We had nothing booked and our later plans involved watching Reflections of Earth for the final time at Epcot. After a quick play with the dining options on the app and finding that to be unfruitful we decided to go off-site.

So this was it, our official MK goodbye.

So panic mode photos started….

It was as tough as it always is to leave this place and there were more Emily tears and longing looks over shoulders as we made our way to the monorail to get back to the car.

It took us just twenty minutes to drive to our restaurant of choice, Romano’s Macaroni Grill at Lake Buena Vista. This was a long-time favourite of our early trips but we had left it alone for a while as newer things had to be tried, but by jingo, we were glad we went back. This was one of the best meals of our trip and if you haven’t done it, give it a go. It was amazingly quiet and the service, probably due to that, was superb.

For a start, it begins with warm bread and dipping oil.

We gorged ourselves on appetisers of Goat’s Cheese Peppers and Mozzarella Sticks, which were all kinds of awesome.

Louise and I had Meatballs.

Emily had a Butternut Squash Pasta thing….

Tom had Mama’s Trio….

Rebecca had a strangely un-photographed Rack of Lamb.

Everybody raved about the quality here. Just superb.

There was cheesecake for Louise and Tom, Tiramisu for Rebecca and Sticky Toffee Pudding for me.

With three glasses of wine and various other drinks, plus a 20% tip it was $220.

Happy and full we made our way speedily to the Boardwalk. Here fine folks, is where I drop another of my “infamous” planning hacks. It can often be tricky to get parked at a resort if you aren’t staying there, and as we wanted to leave Epcot via International Gateway once the fireworks were done, finding a reason to park here was key.

Having realised that the Big River Grill place at the Boardwalk does not take ADRs, it was simple enough to drive up to the gate, flash some ID and say we were going for dinner there. We were waved through to park without question. Assuming that isn’t common knowledge, if anyone asks, I didn’t tell you.

We made our way up to the hotel entrance for our onward journey to Epcot.

With timing reminiscent of the D-Day landings we arrived at “our bridge spot” at 8.40 and took up our last ever viewing position for Reflections of Earth.

Now, I know we’ve all seen it, and indeed I have posted our video from our earlier viewing this trip, but it’s gone now, so have it again, this time with the added pathos of knowing you can never watch it live again.

There was genuine emotion, nostalgia and regret at it’s passing and it took a good amount of time pull ourselves together and move on, in every sense. You can even witness first hand my croaky cold filled timbre at the end of the video……I wasn’t well you know.

We stopped at the shop at International Gateway to get Emily an ROE T-shirt but they only had odd sizes left so we were denied, only to be rescued by the lovely Val Ramsay who got us one a few days later and posted it to Emily Thank You!

It was a long, leisurely walk back to the car via one of my favourite places on earth.

I’m pretty sure that this store was named after an actress known for her adult roles….

It was a subdued and uneventful drive home and once there, I checked us in for our flight home and then took my sad, tired (still ill) body to bed.

All that remains is our travel day and reflections of the trip and reflections of Reflections of Earth. Spookily the writing of this report will take me right up until Christmas as if this had all been planned. With the amount of planning cock-ups you’ve witnessed over these last weeks, you will know this was not the case, but I will revel in the neat, tied up with a bow satisfaction it brings me.

Till the next time……

The Dodging Dorian Tour – Day Nine

I started today close to death. The onset of my cold last night had incubated nicely during the night into what I assumed was the onset of the Zombie apocalypse, as clearly no human could feel this rough and live to see next week. As I was due back at work at that time, I figured this wasn’t a bad way to go and resolved to make the best I could of my remaining time. If the cold was going to get me I figured I may as well eat myself to death and go out in style.

Luckily, today had become a non-park day. What should have been happening on day two, didn’t as we moved a theme park up due to Dorian, and so here we are on day nine, doing day two of the plan. I’m glad that’s clear.

Typhoon Lagoon was the plan and it opened at 10am, so leaving at 9.40 was just late enough to have me silently tutting that we probably would arrive a few minutes after opening, seeing every sliver of shade already taken and us crisping nicely in the scorching sun for eight hours.

Upon arrival, the car park was empty, or at least close to it and me and my budgie smugglers made our way into the park ignoring my chaffing flabby white thighs as they attempted to start a fire between my legs. Not for the first time baby!

It did take us a good few minutes of wandering to find somewhere that would allow Louise unfettered access to eight hours of blistering direct sunlight and the rest of us some cooling shade. All of the umbrella spots had gone to the people who hadn’t left their villas too late so we had to try and find a spot covered with some natural shade. As we began to set up camp, Tom, Rebecca and Freddie were already off into the water.

I sat, making good use of the toilet roll I had brought from the villa, depositing it once used into the supermarket plastic bag I had brought for that very purpose. I mean, who wants to be walking all the way to the restrooms! Fear not, I was depositing nasal secretions rather than anal, which is a sentence I didn’t imagine using in this, or any report.

I read for a while between sniffs and blows and after some time doing that I wandered off to get some bottles of water for everyone. See how everyone rallies round when I’m ill so I don’t need to do anything? No, me neither.

Eventually, the heat got the better of me and it was time to go and infect the wave pool with my germs. With every battering from the waves, I was no doubt launching ever so tiny molecules of germ-ridden snot in all directions. Caring is sharing. Hopefully, the coughing woman from the plane was in there and she caught it again.

Soon, that was very much enough of that and I had to retire back to my sun lounger, resting there like some oversized snot dispenser. Louise and Emily left me to it and went to do the lazy river.

By the time they returned it was 12.30 and I was so hungry I was about to call Bob Geldof to launch an appeal. Louise, Emily and I went off first for lunch leaving the rest to guard our possessions. My large plastic bag of snot ridden toilet roll was clearly going to be catnip for any potential thief.

Louise bagged a table and far too many condiments and napkins whilst Emily and I ordered. We had…..

Me – Chicken Burger

Emily – The Impossible Burger

Louise – A “Chicken and Rice Thing”.

Emily’s was pretty good but other than that the food was at best average. We returned to camp and released Tom, Rebecca and Freddie for their eats.

The rest of the afternoon was spent resting, for me anyway. Tom wasn’t seen again until closing, as he spent every moment sliding down stuff. Imagine our surprise at the end of the day when he returned looking like a very red thing.

Late in the afternoon, I took Freddie into the wave pool for a bit, obviously away from the major action.

We had a lovely time and he wasn’t keen on leaving at all, but we did around 4.30, having avoided a rainstorm at Typhoon Lagoon, which is incredibly unusual for us. I loved that time with him playing in the shallow end. I’ve banked that as a another one of those times to remember.

We made our sandy footed, damp bottomed way out of the park and back to the car which had attained the temperature of the sun whilst we had been away. That was handy as it would need to dry out my seat after I had made it all wet. Incontinence is a curse of the middle-aged.

We were soon back at the villa for welcome showers and changing. Our plan was to head over to Magic Kingdom tonight to watch Happily Ever After. Like some overconfident, detail averse idiot, I assumed that tonight’s fireworks would be at 10pm, so I had booked the Plaza restaurant for an 8.15 ADR. See how I subtly hint at some upcoming planning woe?

We parked in Scar, drinking in another spectacular Floridian dusk.

There are few places on earth that make me happier than a tram heading into Magic Kingdom. Freddie seemed to concur. We were again dumped and forced to walk to the TTC.

I apologise but there’s something about a WDW sunset that means I get a form of photographic Tourette’s and can’t stop myself.

It was right about now that I actually looked at the app to discover the time of Happily Ever After tonight and realised that I had once again dropped a huge ricket, as tonight for reasons that were never clear to me, it would be on at 9.15.

Still, the view was nice.

Fearing now that we wouldn’t be done eating by 9.15 I was very annoyed with myself. I haven’t been keeping count of all the absolute howlers I have committed this trip, but it’s a lot. Clearly, I need many more trips so that I can improve my planning skills. I put this one down to illness, which I’m not sure I have yet mentioned.

With the new time table in mind, I upped the pace a little as we entered the park trying to get us to the Plaza those crucial few minutes early.

I hoped that we may be seated immediately, as we arrived at around 7.55 but alas no, we waited until just after 8.15 before getting shown to our table.

Freddie had been in charge of the buzzer and was convinced it was actually a phone. I have no idea who he thought he was chatting to.

Here, you can see Tom and his radioactive complexion. He’s doing well to hide the incredible pain caused by his T-shirt touching his skin.

I look like someone who has been expelling snot from most orifices for several hours. See how I manfully suck it up, flash a winning smile and don’t mention that I’m ill at all.

Service was a little slow, or maybe that was just my perception. We ordered as today’s water park exertions started to hit Freddie like a ton of bricks. He hits the same brick wall that Rebecca used to all those years ago. As soon as the incoming food would hit his stomach we all knew it would be game over. To be honest the same would still be true for Rebecca!

Rebecca and Tom had one of the Plaza’s special milkshakes each.

Upon its arrival, Freddie suddenly perked up a little!

Louise and I had the steak….

Emily, the Fried Tomato Sandwich,

Tom and Rebecca, a Turkey Sandwich

and Freddie the PB & J

The bad news was that, as feared, we missed the first few minutes of the fireworks and I had another enormous man baby sulk.

The slightly better news was that we had a window seat and had a decent view of the stuff we were missing.

I hastily paid the bill and we made our way outside to watch the rest.

At this point, as predicted, everything had caught up with Freddie and he immediately fell asleep in his pram. Rebecca and Tom decided to set off for the car with him before the crowds all did the same. The rest of us stayed to watch the end of the fireworks and whilst doing so got a message from Rebecca telling us that the monorail was down and the exit was like a scene from a disaster movie where thousands of people try to get on a ferry boat. We immediately left, just ahead of most of the crowds but still got caught in the carnage.

The ferry still seemed like the best option and we waited fifteen minutes to board one. It was packed and not one of the more enjoyable journeys on it, but it got us where we wanted to be.

We walked to the tram pick up and were soon back at the car where Tom, Rebecca and a very much asleep Freddie were waiting. I drove us home still feeling more ill than anybody ever in the history of the world, but I don’t like to talk about it.

Till the next time…….

The Dodging Dorian Tour 2019 – Day Two

This is what it’s all about. The months of planning, the dark, cold mornings when you drag your unwilling ass out of bed to get to work to pay for these trips and the endless waiting for the countdown to reach zero. The first day dawns like a glorious new era, with all that real-life crap behind you along with the exhausting travel day. The endless possibilities of your trip stretching out before you as your T-shirt fits you the best it will for the foreseeable future.

Despite all of that, waking at 3am as I did was a big fat nope. I managed to get back to sleep until a much more respectable 6.30 before venturing downstairs to make the first of many checks on Dorian’s path. It was still a good few days away but that didn’t stop the TV from having 24-hour rolling coverage.

I showered and waited for others to appear. Freddie was soon ready to go.

and at a decent effort of 7.45am we were out of the door. Having failed at the whole supermarket thing last night, the cupboards were literally bare so we needed feeding and quick.

I had spotted a McDonalds on the way in last night and that was selected by me, without any consultation with anyone else, as it would be quick and not delay our arrival at Magic Kingdom any more than absolutely necessary.

We decided to eat inside and despite having to wipe our own table and order our own food on the big screen thing, it hit the spot. Look at how sunny it was and how it made the photos I took so great.

There were all sorts of sugar and salt-based goodies consumed in short order for the princely sum of $32. It would be the cheapest meal we would consume all holiday.

Not that I was keeping a track of time like some anal time-obsessed idiot, but we left McDonalds at 8.32am and arrived at the gates to Magic Kingdom at 8.50.

Not those gates….

These…

We paid the $25 for parking. Now, you know I am willing to gift Disney all of my money all of the time, but I have to say the parking fee is getting a little silly now. I know we are off-site scum who don’t hold an annual pass, and those are some ways to avoid it, but that is a high fee. Still, it could have been worse. We could have been one of those “characters” who sing to the cast member because they heard it can get them free parking. Just stop it!

We parked in Simba 117 and walked the inevitable walk from the very bottom of the row to the tram.

Getting six bodies and a stroller onto the tram isn’t easy, but by the end of this holiday, we could do it with our eyes closed.

Due to ongoing work, the tram doesn’t take you all the way in currently. It stops just outside of Tampa and you have to walk in the rest of the way.

At this point, some families may have a debate about how to get across the water to the park itself. Not on day one you don’t. Every second counts and anyone suggesting the ferry will be sleeping with the fishes.

There was a torturous wait as Rebecca took Freddie for a nappy change and I hid my burning desire to get into the park quite well I thought.

I mentioned in the previous day that I had abandoned the traditional bright white trainer for a more conservative black pair. To ensure that our party would continue to bring down aircraft with their footwear, both Emily and Louise had taken up the mantle.

We boarded the monorail, all craning our necks for that all-important first glimpse of the castle.

It is difficult for someone like me, with my weak grasp of writing, to express how this time and journey feels. You’ll know if you’ve done it I think. It goes without saying that I would sacrifice most of my major organs (not that one!) to be back in this moment.

Finally….finally….after a journey both real and metaphorical, we arrive at the turnstiles. We start to scan bands and fingers, mere moments from the first walk up Main Street. Wait, what? Emily is having problems. The cast member raises their hand so another one in a different uniform is summoned. Much scanning of bands, clicking of iPads and typing of stuff happens. I even get my photo taken for reasons I don’t understand. All that matters is that finally we are released into the Magic. Apparently, the issue was caused by Emily having her own My Disney Experience account, yet her ticket was linked to mine. That whole linking thing is more complex than Brexit.

Having realised that she had forgotten her magic band halfway to Manchester airport, Emily needed to get herself a new one. We did so in the very first shop we came across after doing a quick Facebook live of our first fateful steps in the park.

I have tried to embed that video here. It’s on Facebook so it may not work for some or all of you. To see it, I guess you’d need to Like the Mkingdon Facebook page, but frankly, if you haven’t done that already, it serves you right.

We linked the band up there and then in the shop and carried on up through the shops on our way to Pirates. We were very much soaking in every aspect of the park as if we’d never set foot in it before. This is a special time.

It was hot and sticky already, so Tom and Freddie took the welcome water of the camel.

Pirates had a fifteen-minute wait posted but it was a walk-on as you’d expect at this time. We don’t tend to use the Memory Maker as we should so I feel compelled to inflict the ride photo on you to feel that I am getting some value from it, despite getting it for “free”.

As you can see, Rebecca had already purchased her bride ears ready for next year. Tom said he’d wait! 🙂

Freddie loved the ride, especially the small drop and the bit where we all got splashed with a cannonball. I know it doesn’t particularly look like it on the photo but the joy of the first ride stayed with us as we left it, and waited for Rebecca to restroom. I collected the stroller and we all moved on to Big Thunder and our first FastPass.

As Freddie’s body clock was adjusting he was now in this state….

so Louise volunteered to sit out with him and she got us all some drinks for after our ride. After the wildest ride in the wilderness, we were headed to Haunted Mansion, but in a spectacular bit of unco-ordinated restrooming, Louise desperately needed to pay a visit. Rebecca, Tom and Emily set off for the Mansion whilst Lousie transferred Ryan, Freddie and other bits and bobs to me. Louise headed off and I set off to catch up with the others.

We were too early for our FastPass but the standby queue was short so I said that I would stay with Freddie whilst the others rode. I wrote up my notes so far, and waited for Louise to bear down and then catch up. After a while, I went to message her to find out where she was only to realise that she had left her phone in Ryan, so that wasn’t going to work. After several minutes of waiting, I got a bit bored, and that’s usually a recipe for trouble…for Louise.

I opened up her phone and did some mischief. Just for clarity, ICE1, is Louise. She is, and I advise you all to do the same, stored as my “In Case Of Emergency” (ICE) in my phone.

I took most joy from the fact that for the ten minutes that Emily, Tom and Rebecca were on the ride they really thought Louise had sent those messages. It’s the small things……

Louise, of course, found it absolutely hilarious as she openly displayed by rolling her eyes and looking at me with disdain and pity once she was reunited with her phone.

Once we were all back together, guess what we did? Yes, we stopped at the Tangled restrooms. Of course we did.

At one of these toilet stops I’m sure I will actually use a restroom at some point.

With Freddie still sleeping we decided to take the opportunity for a snack, which after a quick analysis of where we were and what was on offer, turned into an early lunch at Pinocchio’s Haus thing. We sat outside and I mobile ordered. It’s much easier to do that with a larger group, as every time we all stand at the till staring up at the menu trying to order in real-time, someone or something gets missed.

Once we’d collected the food we sat inside as the concrete was melting outside.

Tom – Nuggets

Rebecca & Freddie – Pasta Marinara

Me – Chicken Parm Burger

Emily – Flatbread

Louise – Bread Sticks as she wasn’t that hungry.

With slushes and sodas all round it was $94.

Naturally, a restroom was required after eating after which we headed out into the now incredible heat and the Carousel.

There was no wait and Freddie absolutely loved it, mastering the “wave at the grandparents” thing like a natural.

Philharmagic next.

Again, Freddie loved it despite not getting on too well with the 3D glasses.

It’s A Small World had a ten-minute standby and offered an escape from the heat so we did that next. This was right up there in the Freddie appreciation charts. He absolutely loved it. Again, I did a Facebook live here and I’ll try to put it here…..

Completing the set of Fantasyland stuff, our FastPass for Pete Pan was due. It’s as if all this had been planned.

As we left the ride, having now used all of our FastPasses, I booted up the app and made another for Barnstormer later that day, so Freddie could ride his first coaster.

As we had done much more restrooming than eating today I tried to remedy that now with some ice cream. We went to Friar’s Nook and got some very tasty stuff.

I won’t name any names, but some members of the group said they “didn’t want any ice cream” but then somehow ate a large proportion of said ice cream once they had tasted it.

That Key Lime stuff that I bought, but Emily seems to be eating, was absolutely delicious. I patted myself on the back for managing to capture such a flattering photo of Louise there.

It was parade time now, and we just managed to catch some of it after walking through the castle and onto one of the ramps leading down to Main Street. It was a great last-minute view and the five minutes of rain that we had at the time was not unpleasant and quite welcome.

It was Barnstormer time now. As we arrived we offered up Freddie for the measuring stick. We knew it would be close, and it took an excruciating few moments for the cast member to reach their verdict. He could get his finger between the top of Freddie’s head and the stick and therefore he couldn’t ride. We were mildly disappointed, but do not give up hope dear reader, that part of the story does not end there.

I cancelled the FastPass and booked Buzz instead. In the meantime, we had a sit-down, a restroom of course and Freddie and Tom played in the water for a bit.

I have always said that there is no “good age” to take kids to WDW. Take them as soon as you can afford to do so and as often as you can….always. Seeing the day that Freddie was having today and would continue to have throughout the holiday, I will wrestle anyone who disagrees.

I took the chance to take some pictures of the progress being made on Tron. It is HUGE and promises to be a significant addition to the park.

As another piece of planning genius unfolded before our very eyes, our Buzz FastPass was now ready so we made our way over there. I do think it unkind of Disney to take photos of folks when they are concentrating on beating their family at shooting targets.

Oh and due to an error on my part, where I scanned the wrong button, we seem to have a photo of a random couple on our account. Say hello!

It is both cool and a little tragic that I turn my cap around so that it does not impede my vision…..

and look at this classic……

Louise sat out in the sun for this one avoiding photographic shaming.

We were done at this point and we headed out to the car via tram and monorail. Tom and I dropped the ladies at the villa so they could begin the getting ready and we went to the Publix that we found closed last night. $220 later, we had a full trunk and soon a full fridge back at the villa.

After showers for all and some waiting for the males, we headed out for Outback at Formosa Gardens. Freddie was a little tired, as you can see….

but he did brilliantly as we ordered and ate.

He watched some Wallace and Gromit on his Dad’s phone and was even entrusted with the camera as a distraction for a while….

We had the customary Bloomin’ Onion….

Then….

Louise – Garlic Medallions of Steak

Rebecca – Sirlion (half-eaten)

Emily – A cheesy pasta thing, being the only Veggie option.

Freddie – Nuggets

I had a lovely steak and shrimp thing, but forgot to photograph it. I get better at this. It was our first night, forgive me.

Tom – An Quesadilla burger which escaped the camera also.

It was all very, very delicious. The bill with a 20% tip, was $178.

We barely managed it home awake. Bed at 10. That, my friends, is a very good effort at an excellent first day. We had a blast.

Till the next time……

A Tool And His Money…

There are a few good things about these weekly blogs. Often I search my blog to find out when something happened when my memory fails, and then there’s the weekly amusement of seeing people still coming to my blog after searching to see if Olly Murs had a hair transplant.

Go on, google it, you’ll see.

One downside is that it is an almost permanent reminder of all the times I talk absolute nonsense or tell fibs. It was only a couple of weeks ago when I was justifying to myself how our plan to go this year would be fine as we’d do it really cheap. We wouldn’t be doing any ADRs and we’d be in a cheap as chips villa just north of Miami.

So, last week I booked two ADRs. One reason for that was that I got a bit over excited that I actually could. Booking so close to the trip comes with perks like that. The first ADR I blame on Freddie. Clearly, you can’t go to WDW with a toddler and not do a character meal, right? So Chef Mickeys was added. Rebecca made that choice on his behalf and we’re both pretending that it really is for Freddie when we both know different.

That will of course be an expensive breakfast, but, all the main characters will be there and it will be a civilised and sugar filled way to meet them without the hassle and queues in the parks. See, I can justify most WDW related expenses.

That was going to be it. We have a long, long list of eateries that we wish to go to and none of them are on site. So, the reasoning behind our second ADR booking is frankly a little more shaky. I think the best I can do is, I wanted to go.

It came about in a chat during a Rebecca, Tom and Freddie visit. I can’t remember the exact details of it, but it involved food, specifically large amounts of food, mashed potato and deep-fried chicken. Anyway, a day later this happened.

Congratulations!

Your dining reservation is set.

Trail’s End Restaurant Dinner

Sunday, September 1, 2019(6:25 PM, Dinner)

I appreciate that is a bit of a random selection. We have history there though and have loved it each time we have dined there. The journey there, if done by boat from the Contemporary or Magic Kingdom is delightful too. Freddie will love the boat ride I’m sure and seeing the huge horses at the camp ground too. See, any expense you like and I can justify it. And, mashed potato.

That day is an official rest day on the plan. That’s right, I have a day by day plan already, what of it? You know how our rest days go, so we’ll probably be getting restless by mid-afternoon so we can get ourselves ready, head to the Magic Kingdom and get the boat over from there. After eating, assuming I am not close to an over indulgence related coma, who knows, we may scoot back over to the Magic Kingdom for an evening stroll around the twinkly lit delights. There’s something vert different about the parks in the early evening darkness and that applies especially to the Magic Kingdom. These types of visits come without the pressure to ride anything, and just allows time for a bit of rose smelling and lovely memory making stuff like the dance party over in Tomorrowland.

It will be Labor Day weekend so if the crowds are too heavy it matters not, we can leave them to it and take our food babies home.

It also allows me to work off everything I just consumed by walking around for twenty minutes. That’s how it works right?

I think that’s it for ADRs though. Honest. We don’t have any room for them to be honest and of course we are on a budget. The only other place that tempted me was Via Napoli. We had lunch there last year and the pizza is sensational. They do a counter service though so we may grab a slice from there. Confession time. It won’t be a bloody slice, it will be several. Seriously, who just has one slice of pizza?

So we’re settled into the countdown now, and indeed, have a good old-fashioned visual of that on our fridge. It’s the small things….

Till the next time……

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Fourteen 11th September 2018

Here we go then, with the mixed emotions of the last full day. I salute both of you that made it with me to this point. It feels like this holiday has lasted for months and indeed via the medium of this weekly bloggage it has.

It will end next week, perfectly timed as the last one before Christmas, in a blaze of  travel day melancholy. Then at some point after that, in the haze of Christmas holiday days off, there will be lots of self-reflection, self-criticism of the many planning faux pas, and joy that we were able to share Freddie’s first trip. He made the whole thing very special, but I shall not steal my own thunder as God knows, now the trip is done I will need stuff to write about each week. I’m not sure I remember how to write a weekly blog on non Disney trip subjects. Based on the last couple of months, I am also fairly sure I have forgotten how to do trip reports too.

We rose today intent to wring every last drop out of it, and I had, a few months ago, booked us into Be Our Guest for breakfast as a last day surprise for Rebecca. Beauty and the Beast is her jam (I believe that is the correct lingo) and with this trip being a treat for her 21st birthday, then it felt right to do so.

Our last quick service visit to BOG was not brilliant to be honest, but that was more down to misaligned expectations and to allow Rebecca and of course first timer Tom to experience the theming, breakfast felt like a risk worth taking.

I had already of course had to move our reservation back a bit as there was no chance of being there for the overly ambitious 9am I had foolishly selected back in the UK. It was now a more sensible 10.20 and as such, I had declared that we absolutely had to be pulling off the drive at 9.

As we pulled away at 9.20 I wondered where my authority might be. Again, I had to leather it a little to make sure we did not arrive late and we abandoned the vehicle impressively by 9.45 and got on a tram.

Security and a monorail later and we were in the park by 10.

As we entered Main Street the parade was on. It’s called something like flex it, move it, tight Lycra I think. We watched it from the corner of our eyes as we yomped at pace up towards Be Our Guest.

With that parade thing in progress, our progress was stunted a little and Mikey was prohibited from stopping for a wee to ensure we got to check in by 10.10. Well done me.

We were herded into the queue which reminded me of all the reasons why the quick service thing isn’t that great here. The family in front of us had too many children. So much so that one of them just wandered off towards the back of the queue and neither of the parents noticed. Eventually I tapped them on the shoulder to let them know that young Darlene was somewhere close to Atlanta in a van with blacked out windows. The Mum scuttled off after her and returned full of sheepish thanks and firm holds on the kid’s neck.

It took ten minutes to get to the ordering kiosk things and I did the pressing of the buttons as clearly I was in charge. I executed it flawlessly and then we, somewhat less flawlessly, searched for a table large enough to accommodate us.

All I would say is that having just blown $170 on breakfast it would have been nice not to have loiter next to some party who looked close to finishing and then having to push their post dining carnage to the edge of the table whilst waiting for someone to clear and clean the table. Anywho, with all that done, we were in, seated and you just can’t knock the surroundings.

Although these are quite disturbing to be honest.

I had a Croque Madame, but I was able to walk it off.

Everyone else had Gaston’s Feast, which was not, it turned out, a large ice cream covered in chocolate and nuts.

These were accompanied by pastries.

The food was good and as experience dining goes, you don’t get better surroundings.

We left at 11.10, eager to use our first FastPass of the day which was for Ariel.

This was one of Freddie’s favourite rides. He will carry the Ariel torch for me when I can no longer.

As I now stated as we exited, it was only right that the first timers with us got to experience the pinnacle of Disney magic and so we headed directly to the Country Bear Jamboree. There was, amazingly, no wait for the next show starting a few minutes after our arrival.

Tom and Mikey were, as you can imagine, suitably impressed.

Next, we rode Aladdin’s Carpets, which is a ride I haven’t been on for many a year.

With that done, Pirates looked to be a walk on so that is exactly what we did. At the entrance a show was underway so we watched Jack Sparrow for a little while.

I suspect that isn’t the most flattering photo he’s ever had taken, and we shouldn’t judge his resemblance, or lack of it, to Johnny Depp based upon it.

This the new redhead scene, where to bring it up to date with modern ways, sees her taking a selfie, adding a filter and moaning at the bloke for not leaving his avocado encrusted plate to soak before going into the dishwasher.

We needed a rest at this point. We made it across the way to the shaded seats and sat with a drink for about half an hour. By then it was time for our next FastPass on Splash Mountain. Louise stayed with a sleeping Freddie whilst everyone else rode.

We saw that Big Thunder had no wait at all so we fitted that in quickly before moving on to Splash.

It was 1.55 by the time we had done both of those mountains and the parade was about to start. I power walked back to Louise and Freddie to collect them and told the rest of the party we’d meet up after the parade. We found a spot for the parade which was unintentionally directly across from everyone else. Spooky.

By jingo it was hot, and we experienced a little piece of Disney magic as the cast member on a nearby stall came over and handed us a couple of water bottles for free. Our spot had Freddie nicely tucked into the shade and enjoying a cold wet towel.

Here you can see Anna and Elsa drinking in my sweaty sexiness.

“Hmm, look how the sweat stains from under his arms are almost meeting up with the one down his back!” Said Elsa

“Dreamy” agreed Anna

“Look how those shorts don’t leave much to my imagination….” said the one from Princess and The Frog, using her arms to emphasis the point.

And here, if ever a Disney character reflected my appearance….

As the parade ended we were literally melting. It was ridiculous and we just needed to cool down a bit. We headed into the nearest shop and just stood in it for ten minutes until our sweat started to dry.

Feeling a little better we headed off for a Disney first. In all these years we had never tried a Dole Whip and now we headed off to put that right.

It was delicious and very welcome in the scorching heat.

We headed for Jungle Cruise next and encountered the longest queue of the trip. It had to be endured as of course we wouldn’t get another chance this trip to ride this one.

On the trail of tidying up the other stuff we hadn’t done yet, Monsters Inc was next, so we headed in that direction.

With Louise having sat out with Freddie a lot, I volunteered to miss this one and I took him over to some benches near Space Mountain whilst he snoozed in his stroller. I left the camera with the girls though, who captured Tom starring in the show.

Whilst they enjoyed the show I sat under the People Mover listening to the same announcement every ten seconds. Another few minutes and I may have cracked. Luckily the return of the others saved me and we moved away.

Freddie now needed a feed and like everyone on this trip, food makes him happy.

Whilst he was being fed we did some wildlife photography.

We did a baby swap for Space Mountain next, with Rebecca and Tom going first. As we waited Louise used the personalised merchandise counter thing to get a new phone case done with her name on it. It would have been handy to take a photo of it to show you here but I didn’t.

We had to wait about twenty minutes for that to be made so everyone else walked down to Main Street to do some last day shopping. We caught with them, did some shopping of our own and took the last photos of the castle for this trip. The dark clouds perfectly reflected the feelings of leaving Magic Kingdom for the final time on our trip.

With a Halloween party that evening we couldn’t, as we would usually, spend the last evening in Magic Kingdom and we were headed over to Epcot for Reflections instead. It didn’t make it any easier as the monorail pulled away.

To prolong the pain, the resort monorail we were on was delayed due to some local lightning. I was starting to get concerned about our reservation at Beaches & Cream for tea as it was currently 6.10 and we were booked in at 7.20. By 6.20 we were off and we smoothly moved from monorail, to tram, to car and sped across to the Beach Club to park the car.

I’ll be honest, most of the motivation for eating at Beaches & Cream was to be able to park there so we would have a much easier exit after the fireworks. The other reason was of course the food…

That was my Reuben and it was excellent.

Louise and Mikey had a burger…

and we all had cheesey fries.

We were split over two tables, so I was too far away from the others to annoyingly take photos of their food.

Once full we walked out into the darkened delight of the Boardwalk area at night.

We made our way to International Gateway and we took up “our spot” at 8.40, feeling some last night feels.

We waited for a bit for the torches to be blown out…

And then it started…

Freddie was fine with the noise, completing a trip where he just dealt with everything like a professional. He had been an absolute star.

There were tears, lumps in throats and all the usual emotions. It was a quiet walk back to the car, for me especially. I find this bit tough. I won’t be able to articulate it here but it won’t stop me trying. It’s memories and nostalgia from previous trips, wondering if we’ll make it back to see all this again added to thoughts of going home and the mixed feelings of seeing family members and pets, yet knowing work is on the horizon. Let’s just say this is not the favourite part of the holiday.

We made our way home by 10pm (that’s why you park at the Beach Club!) and we all retired to bed.

Till the next time…..

 

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Twelve 9th September 2018

After all the moaning about being tired yesterday, it seemed our collective bodies now hated us as many of the group had spent the night awake and ill. Louise had a crappy cold and nobody in Rebecca and Tom’s room got any sleep as Freddie was up coughing all night.

We were a weary and sickly bunch this morning. The plan had us all down for a character breakfast at O’hana, and that, by jingo, would still be happening, but only after a count of survivors fit to travel. That came down to the hard-core of me, Emily and Mikey. I amended the ADR via the app and we set off for the Polynesian leaving everyone else to get themselves better for the MNSSHP party later.

This is a lovely resort, and of course, if somebody wants to gift me a stay at it, I’d be grateful but it doesn’t feature in my list of places I’d love to stay at. The villas look awesome out on the water but I think I would put Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club and (just to say we’d done it) the Grand Floridian above it on my list.

The queue to check in for our meal was the longest of our trip so far. What can people be talking about for so long to the poor patient cast member?

Once we had finally got to the desk and spent about twenty seconds checking in, we took a seat in the lobby for two minutes until we got our text to say the table was ready. Our seater, (is that a word?) in the short journey to our table had discovered where we were from, asked several questions about it and then described a summer she spent in Bury St Edmunds. I guess she does that a lot.

Once seated we were juiced up and served this delicious pineapple bread thing.

We destroyed that whilst waiting for our platter to arrive….

We all declared the waffles the pick of the platter but happily tucked away everything we had been brought plus selected seconds.

The timing of the meal was great. Character meals can be rudely interrupted by characters, but this morning, we were left in peace to eat and only as we were feeling so full we may be sick did some friends turn up.

Stitch was great fun and really demonstrated how character interaction should be done.

Vowing never to eat again (spoiler – we did), we strolled back to the car and drove back to the villa.

Everyone was resting up around the pool and Freddie was having a sleep making up for what he missed last night.

I had a quick dip and a read, but not at the same time.

Having missed out on the huge breakfast and having to have made do with whatever stuff we had in the villa for their breakfast, Rebecca and Tom were starving now and itching to get going. It was 3pm by the time everyone was ready and of course on the way we stopped at Walgreens. This time it was for cough medication for Freddie and to collect my one million point loyalty card reward.

We parked up in the Magic Kingdom car park and trammed it into the TTC. Freddie needed a quick change so we enjoyed the raging heat whilst waiting and, with no immediate rush to be on any ride, I allowed us to take the ferry instead of the monorail. This was mainly due to the fact that I could see the ferry sat waiting for guests and there was a queue on the ramp up to the monorail.

We set off on the short walk to the ferry and with about six steps remaining to the gate, the cast member shut it and said we’d have to wait for the next one. The four minutes we had to wait for the next one would of course, in my mind, ruin the whole day.

Still, I’ve waited in places with a worse view I’ll admit.

We were on board soon enough and ready to set sail.

Once in the park we were directed right just past Tony’s to an area where we would collect our wristbands and candy bags, who, I had mistakenly thought was a 70’s porn star.

We picked up our first lot of candy, sampling a couple of pieces as we headed to sort out the hunger issue properly at Casey’s with various shapes of hot dogs.

We ate outside, fed the ducks a bit and admired the costumes some folks had put a huge amount of effort into.

The first order of business was our Space Mountain FastPass so we headed over to Tomorrowland.

Sorting out the rider swap was a right pain in the arse here as the magic tablet they normally use was broken. The cast member had a huge group of folks gathered around her trying to sort things out and she was having to remember faces to allow folks to ride once the first part of groups had done so. It was almost a longer wait to do this than it was to do the standby.

Eventually we were seen and Rebecca and Tom rode first. It took quite a while, more so as the (I assume temporary) exit now is right around the back and it’s a fair old walk back to the entrance.

It was 5.50 by the time the second lot had ridden and restrooms were needed by some weaker members of the group. This meant that we missed our FastPass for Peter Pan which ended at 6, with the park closing then for the party. As penance for needing that wee Louise then watched a sleeping Freddie whilst the rest of us headed to the two mountains in Frontierland. They were both walk ons.

We had arranged to meet up with Ceara again this evening so we did this now before heading back to Louise who was in Liberty Square.

Next it was Haunted Mansion which I guess is a must do at the Halloween party. It was busy but Ceara worked her cast member magic and literally got us in the back door to avoid a twenty-five minute queue. Freddie needed changing and Mikey needed the loo so we rode without them.

I don’t know why but I thought that this chap had a very fetching hair cut.

As we exited there were some actors up on the lawn who were very entertaining.

We watched them for a little while before reuniting with the others and bagging some more candy in Fantasyland. We then took in Mickey’s Philharmagic and did some actual buying of some stuff in the shop at the exit.

It was raining quite hard at this point and we walked over to Small World hoping to ride and avoid the wet stuff. There was a fifteen minute queue but again Ceara had us whisked through to ride immediately. I did feel a bit guilty walking past the queue. We got some strange looks as of course there are no FastPasses during a party night so everyone was probably wondering what we were doing.

I figured over the years, I’ve paid Disney enough cash to warrant the odd bit of good fortune.

Having ridden this countless times, tonight we experienced a first. It broke a bit and the music stopped, as did our boat and we experienced it in silence for quite a while. Some may say that was a blessing. It extended our ride anyway which Freddie was happy about as he loved this one.

We were going to ride the Mine Train next but it was down due to the weather so Ariel was the alternative.

Another Freddie favourite.

Next, Rebecca and Tom took Freddie on Dumbo and the rest of wandered the huge shop nearby. Somehow I emerged with huge Rice Krispy treats and slushes for all which we all enjoyed before returning to the now functioning Mine Train.

Freddie was alseep again after all his riding exploits so Rebecca and Tom sat out with him whilst the rest of us rode. This is an excellent ride and very smooth. I think it feels better in the dark too.

We did another candy stop and then made our way to the castle for the 10.45 show featuring the Sanderson sisters. We found a place to stand in the crowds and waited.

We waited some more and it became clear, mainly due to it being announced several times, that the show was delayed due to the weather. It wasn’t raining now but the stage was wet and an army of folks were on it trying to dry it out.

Eventually they declared that the show couldn’t go ahead but the sisters did come out and they performed one song to avoid riots breaking out in the crowd.

We stayed where we were waiting for the parade.

We took the opportunity to take some pictures in front of the castle with the crowds now moving away to bag parade spots. This was one of those moments you can’t plan for. We literally had the area in front of the castle all to ourselves and it was lovely to let Freddie explore a bit and take too many photos.

The parade was excellent and we had a great view despite not staking one out.

After the parade, Freddie dropped off to sleep and knowing that the impending fireworks would wake him up, Rebecca and Tom decided to walk back to the car with him.

With a now dry stage the 12am Sanderson sisters show went ahead without a hitch. The three sisters really are excellent.

When the show finished we decided not to leave with the crowds and we hung back instead enjoying the castle.

After a while we started to make our way out through the shops, buying more stuff and by the time we got to the exit it really was getting late now.

We got the resort monorail and the tram back to the car at 1.15. We dropped Ceara off at her apartment and made it back to the villa at 2am. We were all beyond exhausted but I think everyone agreed that this party was a massive highlight of our trip. I don’t know it took us until now to do it, but it won’t be the last time for sure. I also have my eye on the Christmas party at some point!

Till the next time….

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Seven 4th September 2018

After the very fine and full day yesterday, the plan recognised the need for some R&R. So there was no rush to be anywhere this morning and folks were allowed to get up when they wished.

I might have wished to be in bed until about 10, but my body clock had me up earlier than I might have liked. Resisting breakfast, knowing what the plan was, proved tricky. We were all ready to go at 10.50 and the sat nav was programmed with the location of a new eatery for us, Keke’s. We hadn’t had a US style, rib busting, double chin causing, T-shirt stretching, guilt inducing mega breakfast yet, so today was the day.

Now, we could have just driven a few minutes up to the 192 and done some pancakes and stuff at a Dennys or similar, but dining is an event on our holidays, and based on a fair amount of online praise and some blog reader recommendations, we had been salivating over the menu at Keke’s during the planning phase for many months.

So we did the half hour drive and arrived to endure a ten minute wait to get a table.

I’m not sure you can read this, but we reminded ourselves of the menu choices…

I had been pretty sure that I would be going for pancakes. The other stuff looked very appealing but there is always a mild concern that the other dishes might not contain the girth I was looking for. Size is important.

We ordered coffees and juices, in most cases one of each, and Emily had a hot chocolate.

and then we ordered…

Me and Tom – Blueberry Pancakes

Louise – French Toast with some sides that I didn’t write down

Mikey – Pancakes & Sides

Emily – Stuffed French Toast

Rebecca – Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I truly can’t believe that I didn’t photograph those and I suspect my camera or SD card has “lost them”.

My word, those pancakes were thick, satisfying and a perfect demonstration of my stupidity and bad relationship with food. I loved them.

We did feed Freddie, don’t be fooled by the manic longing in his eyes.

Those pancakes soaked up maple syrup at an alarming rate and we went through a huge bottle between us. I didn’t finish all of my pancakes to be honest. Knowing I had to drive home I thought it best not to pass out and/or vomit over the steering wheel. Tom made a very valiant effort, especially when he went for the large portion size of four pancakes compared to my meagre three!

After parting with $130 and any chance of ever fitting into my “smaller T-shirts” ever again, we waddled to the car and it was a subdued journey back through a few scattered rain showers. Louise suggested that we detour through Celebration to show our newbies, so we did. Who says my planning is not flexible?

We kerb crawled through the ‘burbs for a bit, picking out our lottery win houses, before heading back to the 192 and the villa. We were home by 2pm and we spent some time around the pool, but clearly not taking any photos! All this resting!!

Whilst we lay, read, swam and rested the pool cleaner came. We pointed out that one of the panels on the pool net thing was broken and she said she would let the relevant folks know. Indeed, a man was with us in double-quick time later that day to sort it. Freddie did some swimming and then was whisked away for a bath whilst the rest of us got ready.

We left, bound for Magic Kingdom at 5.20 after feeding Freddie. How he could eat at this point was a mystery to me. Due to reasons, tonight would be the only night we would be able to see Happily Ever After. A lot of nights at Magic Kingdom were taken up with MNSSHP so it was tonight or not at all.

Obviously, like an over eager, do it all knob, I had also shoe horned some FastPasses in before the fireworks.

We parked in Jafar 310 and trammed it in. A monorail ride later and we were into the park.

Oh look, I remembered to take a photo.

We walked through the castle and into Fantasyland.

We had a FastPass for Winnie the Pooh and this would be our first ride of this for many a year.

Perhaps it was better when I wasn’t taking photos….

Freddie definitely enjoyed the ride, but he enjoyed the shop at the exit equally.

I am ashamed to say that we were a little hungry at this point. We walked down to Tomorrowland and mobile ordered some hot dogs from The Lunching Pad.

It took an age and I was not happy about it. See how furious I am by the arch of my eyebrow.

 

We waited for a bit longer….

Until I reached my limit and wandered up to the counter. I asked a Cast Member who, I have to say was not the brightest I have ever met. She looked at the computer, found my order and pressed a button, and hey, look at that, my phone buzzed to say my order was ready. As the hot dogs we’d ordered were all pre-made and sat in a warmer, this should have been the case about ten minutes ago. Sigh.

We had an overly long conversation about whether we wanted cheese or apple sauce with our hot dogs. Another cast member had to step in to translate (she was an English speaker!) and despite the fact that anybody ordering apple sauce with a hot dog should be ejected from the park, finally I had my tray of food and I returned to our table.

We had hot dogs here a few years ago and they were excellent. It seems that they had shrunk by about 40% since then. They were still tasty but even after our frankly stupid breakfast, they didn’t fill much of a hole. At $10 a dog, this was challenging the Brown Derby for value for money.

Our FastPass for Buzz had opened up so Rebecca and Tom went to ride that followed by the rest of us when they returned. We got a churro or two whilst we waited as obviously we hadn’t had enough sugar today. I didn’t make a note of why we rode seperately but I suspect Freddie had dropped off. Whilst we rode Tom got himself another hot dog so that he felt like he’d eaten something.

We moved on to Mine Train now and it looked lovely in the increasing darkness. Rebecca and Tom rode first again, and we rode immediately afterwards aware that time was pushing on and the fireworks were looming. Again, a mixture of the wrong camera setting and my extreme incompetence produced some classics.

Take my word for it, riding this in the dark is excellent. By the time we exited it was 8.20 and there was just ten minutes until Happily Ever After. Emily and Louise walked ahead to bag a spot for us, but by the time we got to Main Street it was carnage and cast members were shouting at folks like us turning up at the last-minute to not stop there, and to keep moving, which was fair enough.

We never met back up with Louise and Emily who were somewhere near Caseys. Instead, the rest of us were marshalled up into the central hub.

We had a very good view if not a lot of room around us.

It was a great show and one I’d need to see many more times to take it all in. We shuffled our way to Caseys to find Louise and Emily who had, it turned out, had a worse view than us. Reunited we loitered outside of Caseys to watch the projection show on the castle.

That was lovely and full of Disney magic, we turned to shuffle to the exit.

I feel the camera and I almost redeemed ourselves with the last few photos.

Again, we chose the resort monorail due to the size of the queue for the other one.

There was still a fifteen minute wait but eventually we made it to the TTC. Boarding the tram involved a little bit of scrummage. Being so many of us, and with a stroller and Freddie, we were always open to over aggressive knob heads barging their way into a row of seats. Anyway, we all managed to get on albeit in various rows.

As another comment on the size of those hot dogs we called at McDonalds on the way home. I just had a drink but I think Tom and Mikey ordered food. They are young growing lads!

Naturally we also called at Walgreens for some water and “bits” before driving home and to bed at 11.15. Another relaxing rest day then.

Till the next time…..

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Five 2nd September 2018

I look at my notes for today and it says we had a lazy start. It feels like there was a lot of this already this trip. I do wonder then why, looking back now, that I was definitely the most tired I have ever been on one of these things this year.

Sure, I’m the oldest I’ve ever been, but without stealing my Jerry Springer style summing up at the end thunder, I may have pushed the pace too hard.

Anyway, lazy we were and there was some TV watching, Freddie had his toast for breakfast and everyone generally did nothing until about 10.30 when readying began. We left the villa at 11.30 and headed for what turned out to be a very busy I4. I don’t tend to think about things like this when planning, but we were heading for Toothsome for lunch, and if I were back home I would seriously question driving that far to anywhere for lunch. It’s different here and on holiday of course food is very much part of the destination not the journey for us, and there is only one Toothsome, so travel we must and did.

It took us forty-five minutes to get to a Universal car parking spot and, another thing I wouldn’t do at home, I spent $22 on parking without blinking an eye or ranting for three and half hours, which I definitely would do in the UK.

We were in Spiderman 455. We unloaded everyone and Freddie’s stroller and after a battle with some escalators and some elevators that weren’t working, or at least not quickly enough for my patience, we were on the moving walkways and heading into City Walk.

By jingo it was hot.

We arrived at Toothsome, and again, it’s a bloody long walk from the car to get there, just after 12.45. There was no wait and we were taken upstairs and seated immediately.

Now, we were here for food. The chap at the front desk clarified that, as they must get a load of folks rocking up just for milkshakes. Regardless of our dining intentions, our priority of course was a milkshake so we spent many minutes looking at a menu we had read many times before the trip, even watching a vlog about them all, to help in our decision-making process.

I still rushed it a bit, and ended up blurting one out feeling pressured by the waiting server.

Me – PB&J

Mikey & Rebecca – Celebration

I can only apologise for the blatant lack of a photo. There is no excuse.

Emily – Key Lime

Tom – Brownie

Louise – No milkshake, but some wine

They are absolutely bloody lovely. I know they look impressive and that is important, but the taste does not disappoint. I loved mine as did everyone else.

We sucked on these whilst waiting for our meals to arrive.

Me – Red Reuben

Louise – Houmous & a side of Onion Rings

 

Emily, Mikey and Rebecca – Chicken Sandwich

Tom – Burger

Freddie – Pasta

Imagine the fullest thing you can, double it and add a bit more and that was me. I was absolutely stuffed, bordering on hospitalisation. So a good meal!

We walked, slowly, back to the car in incredible heat wondering if we would ever need to eat again. (We did).

The plan stated that this afternoon was a non-theme park day and instead we were to go shopping. How this would make the day any more restful, I have never known, but we have always done some shopping so off we went. The location was to be the Premium Outlet Malls at Lake Buena Vista.

The fatal flaw in this plan was defined by the very reason for its existence. Today was Labor (sic) Day weekend, and as such, my plan was to stay as far away from theme park crowds as possible. It seemed that all of those crowds had instead congregated at this mall. We toured the car park for about twenty minutes before finally admitting defeat. There was just no chance of us finding a spot and so I left that traffic nightmare and drove straight into another. The queue of cars to get back to the Crossroads area (Benny says Hi….ask your granddad) past Bahama Breeze was just bobbins. We sat and waited for about half an hour inching forward slowly. Just as we got to the front of the queue some f*ck nugget tried to just indicate and swing in right in front of us. If Freddie’s first words are unrepeatable, this moment will be why. I can assure you, I did not let him in.

Denied of retail therapy at one location we headed to Disney Springs, where these days, the one thing you can be pretty sure of is a parking spot. We pulled into Lime, found a spot easily and disembarked.

We wandered some shops, I have to say halfheartedly.  Emily got a hoodie but other than that nothing was purchased and enthusiasm for such was very low it had to be said.

Rebecca voiced those views first and said they’d rather be in a park. Faced with a fairly forceful sulk, it was agreed that we’d chance a theme park as they couldn’t be any busier than these bloody shops.

Don’t worry, the pin had been removed from the back of this badge…I mean pin…no, I mean badge. There was nothing sharp on what Freddie was holding here is what I am saying.

Once back in the car we pointed the van at Magic Kingdom. He who dares wins.

We parked in…

At this time of day there was no army of Cast Members waving you to the bottom of a row so we drifted around the car park like it was the Premium Outlet Mall again until we found a spot.

We were by now getting quite skilled at the routine from the car, onto the tram and off again. Everyone had assumed a role, and we dismantled the stroller and boarded in a few seconds like on of those F1 pit land crews. We didn’t wear helmets though.

We monorailed in

Once in the park we consulted the app to see what horrendous queues awaited us and to confirm that no FastPasses would be available for anything.

 

I have to say, I struggled with the app this year. It was constantly flakey. Certain pages never loaded. For example, whenever I viewed our plans, unless I filtered by something, no content appeared. It froze a lot and was generally about as fast as an episode of Poldark. (Sorry my hatred for all Sunday evening period dramas seeps out now and again).

With every ride rammed we resorted to meeting a character. We rarely do this these days and hadn’t done any this trip. With Freddie with us, we should and we did. We struck out up Main Street heading for Tomorrowland and Buzz who was out doing a meet.

On the way, we passed “the purple wall”. If you “do” Instagram you’ll know….

Mikey, Tom and Rebecca joined the queue for Buzz for Freddie’s first ever official character meet.

We wondered if he would be terrified of them. It may run in the family as Louise is quite scared of other large things with weird heads.

As they queued I loitered ready to take a few photos once they got to Buzz.  There was an Edna drive by…

We needn’t have worried about Freddie. Like everything else on this trip he took Buzz in his stride.

As did Mikey.

Whilst waiting I had used the app to book some FastPasses having found some actually did exist. The first of which was…

This is a ride I hadn’t been on since 2003 I think. After a pre-ride wee our FastPass time came around and we all boarded except Louise who I think thought it may be too thrilling for her.

After feeding Freddie, we now headed back to Tomorrowland (sure, I do know we just came from there…) and we did the old faithful rides when things are busy and you need something to do between FastPasses. First,

Even this had a small queue, but we were soon aboard, enjoying Magic Kingdom at dusk.

When you are “the planner” of the group there can be a certain pressure. Every time you leave a ride all eyes turn to you with a “What now?” attached. So I often find that whilst on one ride my mind is thinking of the next step or two. In this case, the answer was right in front of me and we did Carousel of Progress.

There was a holiday many years ago when Rebecca was obsessed with the song and we had it in the car for the whole fortnight. There is no greater testament of our love for her than the fact that she survived.

Our second FastPass was now due and thankfully it was for Buzz and not some ride at the other side of the park.

Again, the scores weren’t important. These competitive Dads who can’t just appreciate the joy of taking part with their family are a real source of dismay!

As we exited the ride the fireworks were on. This was a problem as Emily and I had been avoiding all online showings of Happily Ever After so that we could watch it for the first time live. So as we bolted for the exit, we did our best not to look up or indeed listen to what was going on! We must have looked a bit strange, head down, shouting instructions to each other, trying to avoid the gathered crowds whilst only looking at the pavement.

The other concern of course was that the fireworks would finish, and thousands of folks would start heading for the exit too, so this was a full paced extraction. We still took the resort monorail as the queue looked shorter and we were soon back at the car.

Right, time to get back on plan! Applebees it said and Applebees we would do.

We did the one on the 192 and were pleasingly seated immediately. More pleasing for those not driving was the news that it was two for one on most alcoholic drinks.

There were so many flying about that I lost track of what they were.

This one is actually Tom’s milkshake. He has an addiction problem, and this is it.

 

 

Freddie was alseep so we had brought him in still in his car seat. Applebees had an ingenious contraption that could be placed at the end of the table that we could rest that on so he wasn’t on the floor.

The fact that the only child in our party was out of it did not stop us from commissioning something from the wandering balloon person.

 

Yes, even at my age, I can still get Woody.

We ordered some appetisers as it had been several hours since our life threatening amount of food at Toothsome.

Me and Emily shared some nachos. Louise and Mikey had some Mozzarella sticks.

For mains we had –

Me – Thai Salad

Louise, Mikey and Emily – Various Pasta things

 

Tom – Club Sandwich

Rebecca – Boneless Wings

Who knows why I didn’t photograph those!

It was all superb. I know Applebees isn’t fine dining but it is good fun, great quality and at $200 including a 20% tip great value too. Full and tired I got us back home and we were in bed by 11.20.

Till the next time…..

 

Freddie’s First Florida Fiesta – Day Two 30th August 2018

For the second day in a row I was awake at 4am. I really, really tried to go back to sleep today but failed miserably and I was up and about by 4.30. Freddie and Tom were already in the pool. Tom had fallen asleep a couple of hours before I did last night so no doubt he had been awake for hours by now.

I had some cereal for breakfast and Tom had his Outback meal from last night. That’s the right way to start a holiday.

Freddie had some toast.

As ever, no matter what stupid hour we are awake on this first day we still end up leaving for the parks later than desired. Despite me knowing that a 7.45 departure was already behind schedule, as the car was half full of first timers I shunned the Sherberth Road route and went down the 192 to World Drive so that they could experience the sign on the first journey to Magic Kingdom.

Rebecca did a fine job of capturing the moment.

and other important landmarks.

We were early (but not early enough, which would be a theme for a lot of the holiday) and were able to park close enough not to require a tram. We walked in to the TTC and security took quite a while. We of course took the monorail as nobody should be taking the ferry on the first day unless, unlike us, you arrived with plenty of time!

Once off the monorail, after emotional first views of the castle, we were quickly through the entrance and soaking in those wonderful first morning vibes…yes, I said vibes.

As we got to the start of Main Street proper, there was a trolley show just starting. Whilst everyone stopped to watch that I nipped into the Emporium to secure all the badges we needed. Rebecca needed a birthday badge as this trip was her 21st birthday present and I also got three 1st Visit badges for Tom, Freddie and Mikey.

As I returned, the show was just ending and Rebecca burst into tears. The emotion of being back here got to her, and when asked she confessed that now having Freddie with her had pushed her over the emotional edge. Emily is normally the cryer!

Now you get it” I said to her in my own special patronising way.

We all then went back into the Emporium for the procurement of magic bands. I was very happy thank you very much, with my grey plain one I got for free at the Beach Club last year. Everyone else, even those with previous bandage, seemed hell-bent on getting a new one.

With selections made, with a blunt reminder from me that time was limited and they needed to “just pick one”, we paid. The octogenarian behind the till was asked if he could/would link them for us. He didn’t refuse as such, but pointed out that we could do this via the app. Before I could stop everyone they were all downloading and logging into the app and trying to do just that. I was trying to tell everyone that it wouldn’t work as I had all the tickets on my account. A few error messages later and the task was abandoned as the show was starting at the castle. We would sort it all out later.

As the show ended, we headed left into Adventureland.

See…

We arrived at what would be Freddie’s first ever WDW ride and Rebecca and Tom went off to park the stroller.

There was of course no queue at this time and we were soon riding with Freddie transferred to his contraption.

We had all wondered how he might react to the rides, with Pirates being a decent first test. It is dark, has some loud noises and a gentle drop or two. He was such a cool customer. He just took it all in with a great deal of curiosity.

We continued round to Splash next and Louise volunteered to sit out with Freddie whilst the rest of us took advantage of the walk on.

After riding, our plan to also do Big Thunder was thwarted by a thirty minute wait time so instead we wandered down towards Haunted Mansion for which we had a FastPass. On the way, we called in at the Ticket Office in Liberty Square. I had never noticed this before but I wondered if they could sort out our Magic Band woes from earlier.

They could. The CM there was incredibly helpful and armed with his tablet device he scanned and tapped away until we were all linked up to our bands and still retained all our links on my account so I could book stuff for everyone. I apologised for the technical incompetence but he said we’d been given a bum steer by the guy who sold us the bands and he should have either sorted it for us or asked a few more questions to understand what we needed to do.

We were a little peckish now following our very early breakfast so we stopped at Sleepy Hollow for sugarific treats.

I had a Churro sandwich and it was all kinds of incredible.

Mikey had a strawberry waffle

Emily a Nutella Waffle and Louise a Breakfast Waffle, both of which I failed to capture as I was in mid-churro orgasm.

Freddie was allowed a little piece of heaven.

So now, all smacked up on sugar snacks, we used our Haunted Mansion FastPass. Freddie again took it all in his stride and didn’t seem fazed or frightened by any of it.

We availed ourselves of the Tangled toilets before making our way to It’s A Small World. There was no queue, and this, it seemed to me anyway, was Freddie’s favourite ride of the whole trip. We rode it a few times and he was totally engrossed each time.

As we retrieved Freddie’s stroller from it’s parking spot, as his body made contact with it, he fell asleep. The benefits of doing WDW at ten months old!

So again, Louise volunteered to sunbathe whilst looking after him. The rest of us piled into Philharmagic after a ten minute wait as a show had just started. It was weird having to describe what a ride/show was before going in when asked by one of our first timers. For this one, I think I went with Disney’s Greatest Hits in 4D.

As we exited it was raining so we loitered in the shop whilst messaging Louise to see where she was sheltering. She was under a brolly outside Pinocchio’s Village Haus so we scampered over there. We took the chance to lunch whilst it rained and we had some cover and I, for the first time, mobile ordered our lunches. We all had flatbreads or nuggets I think and it was about $80.

Mikey seemed to enjoy it.

Fed and watered (again) it was now time for our Big Thunder FastPass so we walked back that way. Rebecca and Tom used theirs first and the rest of us waited in the very, very hot sunshine. I parked Freddie up in the shade and loitered by his stroller so that nobody pinched him or thought him abandoned.

A Canadian lady had taken it upon herself to have a chat with Mikey and Louise, attracted by his 1st Visit badge. She was a veteran and shared stories of her travels and asked what he was making of things.

With Rebecca and Tom off the ride, the rest of us did the same.

There was some filming going on in and around the ride, and as we were about to board this lot were let on from the opposite side of the track, so they enjoyed one of my best glares.

The guy in front, with the Rays shirt, seemed to be regretting several life choices at that moment.

It surely is the wildest ride in the wilderness.

We had a message as we left saying that Freddie was having his lunch over at Tall Tales so we joined them there. Once he was fed (he is never really full!) we made our way down to Main Street (one of these times we might work out a route that doesn’t involve constantly crisscrossing the park) as we were going to get Freddie his first hair cut at the barbers.

We couldn’t get in immediately but I was able to reserve a slot for 2.40 which would follow on nicely from the parade. So we took our spot on the pavement outside, right at the end of the parade route just as the Grand Marshalls were coming past. Yeh, we were better at it.

Then the band came by.

And the rest followed.

Freddie was sweaty but happy watching it go by.

Ariel had missed me, it was clear.

Tinkerbell seemed to be regretting that Mexican last night……

That’s better!

With the parade done we made our way back to the barbers.

Freddie was soon in position.

Here is the video if you want to watch it.

With that done, we were all set and ready to go.

With first day tiredness creeping up on us we decided to head out and have a rest before our ADR at Whispering Canyon in a couple of hours. We got the resort monorail and headed for the Contemporary for a drink in the Outer Rim.

Cocktails for all but me and Freddie were ordered.

We sat and chatted and rested for a bit.

Soon it was time to head to Wilderness Lodge, so we monorailed back to the TTC and walked to the car for the short drive. Well, it would have been shorter had the new road system for Magic Kingdom resorts not confused me, but we did some sight seeing in the surrounding area and we were still on time for our ADR….just.

With a 5pm reservation we were the first in the place, so we were a little worried that the famous atmosphere may be lacking. However, it soon filled up and all was well.

We had an excellent server who looked after us very well with just enough shenanigans to make things fun. We all had the unlimited skillet thing and enjoyed it a lot.

Tom & Mikey took advantage of the unlimited milkshakes.

We had some Nachos to start, just in case an unlimited amount of food wouldn’t be enough.

Some salad arrived, sat around on the table for a bit until the server came and removed it again.

Then the real action began.

Special mention for the corn bread which we actually doggy bagged as we couldn’t eat it all.

Freddie was a fan.

And of his Dad’s milkshake.

Despite eating huge amounts, Tom and Mikey opted to have a dessert too. It was a chocolate something and they almost finished them.

Tired and so full we might die, we trudged to the car, called at the Pharmacy as we would seem to do at least once a day from here on in, and got home at 7.15.

Louise and Mikey went in the pool for a short while but everyone else took their food babies to bed very early.

Till the next time….