Wham Bam, Gran Can, Let’s Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time…..

Booked It, Packed It….

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

Oh, so I got my refunds then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till the next time……