Sense and Sensibility

As we bid a fond farewell to summer for another year, it has at least served its purpose and allowed us another American Adventure. Clearly, being a grown man, with a job that almost matters, bills to pay and real life day-to-day issues I have this week done absolutely none of the following –

  1. Researched if it’s better to stay on site at Universal or to buy the Front of Line passes instead.
  2. Checked hotel prices for our on site stay.
  3. Spent a not inconsiderable amount of time working out our departure date, based on pesky work schedules, flight prices, the ability to do MNSSHP again and my inability to wait longer than I absolutely need to.
  4. Looked at several menus for restaurants we may eat in eighteen months from now.
  5. Browsed some villa websites.

Nope, I didn’t do any of those things as that would have just been silly.

If I had been that silly I would have discovered that Universal wanted £1500 for Front of Line passes for two days for our party. That is of course is in addition to our tickets to get into the park. This, Universal, is madness. An on site stay for the same number of folks in two rooms, (suck it up Emily, you’re sharing with Mum & Dad), was about £500. I guess the method in their madness is that they want you to stay on site as they hope you’ll spend more than the difference when you do.

So, on site it is. I would suspect, had I researched prices, I would have decided that it will be the Royal Pacific again. We love the Hard Rock, but it’s about £300 more and as we’ll probably only be there for one night it seems silly. However, when we come to book at a time more sensible, we shall see what deals are around. I mean, what idiot would be looking so far away from their travel dates?

As if he somehow knew what was being planned, Freddie recently took part in a photo shoot, and naturally it had a strong Disney theme. Indulge me sharing a handful of them here….

He’ll thank his Mum no doubt for that Mickey costume when these are shared at his 21st!

Again, if I were an idiot, I might have had an extended conversation with Emily about how tall Freddie might be when we go and which rides that might mean he can go on. Thankfully, I am not that stupid.

Sticking to my declaration last week that I won’t over plan this trip will be a test of my resolve, mainly as it is a long way off and but also because I am a sad act.

I mean, how silly would it be for me to ask both my readers to send me their suggestions for any nice 4 bed villas they know of in developments around Sunset Lakes, Emerald Island, Lindfields and Formosa Gardens. If I had given it any thought at all, I would know that we only want to be staying in that area. Don’t be suggesting me stuff ten miles down the 27 that claims to be “15 minutes from Disney”, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Thankfully, such silliness has not taken place, and I am proud to see nobody else in our travelling party has indulged in any such nonsense. I mean, had I been an obsessed over excited idiot, I might have sent my daughter a text just to tell her that Caseys’s now do a foot long Corn Dog only to have her tell me that my other daughter had already messaged her the day before to tell her the exact same thing. They make me proud every day.

Till the next time…..

Blow By Blow….

Now that all the changes and faffing are done (hopefully) and the dust has settled on all the re-arranging of stuff for our next holiday, I thought I’d share our my (weirdly over thought and scarily detailed) plans with you for our trip even though it’s not until next April. Yes, I know that’s a long way away, but sharing this stuff makes the trip seem closer and reality a little further away, plus, with your combined expertise and knowledge, dear reader, you can point out any glaring errors or omissions. Your opinions are more than welcome, as long as I agree with them, otherwise you’ll just get yourself banned!!  That’s how the internet works, right?

This is all still pretty loose. Well, when I say loose, I of course know where we are eating most days and which parks we’ll be in for the Orlando time, but loose as in each second is not yet accounted for. It is bound to change a few times between now and departure date as I see and remember stuff we have to do….

Day One

We fly out of Manchester courtesy of Mr Branson at around 12.45. I have yet to experience a flight that actually left the ground at the time advertised so let’s say we’ll be airborne sometime in the early afternoon. Once home, myself Louise and Emily will drop off Nana and Grandad at the Holiday Inn Across from Universal (official title, not a description) and head off to check in at the Royal Pacific Resort. Once checked in and short pants adorned we shall collect some grandparents and head out to the Outback. It’s become a tradition that this is our eatery of choice for this first night. It became so as we stayed around Formosa Gardens for quite a few years in a row and it was convenient. A few Bloomin’ Onions and Cheesey Fries later and it’s become a must do.

With us staying quite some distance from Formosa of course, I’ve substituted it for one on I Drive, trusting that the quality will remain regardless of location. With full bellies we shall retire to a fitful sleep, ready for the early rising which is of course inevitable.

Day Two

With us no doubt being awake before it gets light we shall make best use of this by using the early hours access to the Potter stuff. With the grandparents “off site” they may have to wait at City Walk with a coffee until the muggles are admitted. We have five days here so at some point they’ll be able to do the Potter stuff they are allowed to go on. Heart conditions permitting!

Dinner is planned at Cowfish on City Walk. We tried this for the first time on our last trip and it was excellent. I intend to repeat my choice from that trip too with a

The Cowfish Has Offically Left The Building (A.K.A. The Hunka, Hunka)

Full-pound beef burger, creamy peanut butter, fried bananas, applewood bacon, brioche bun. Choice of side. (Make it a SINGLE HUNKA LOVE, half-pound beef burger for $13)

I will not be making use of the $13 option!

Day Three

Today is the tired day. The journey, the early morning wake up and a day in a theme park mean that this is always down as a rest day for us. We shall spend it by the pool at RPR but we shall make the effort to get across to the new Toothsome Chocolate Factory for lunch, which may just be made up of milk shake and pie. We are on holiday!

Dinner is pencilled in for Celebration. We usually do the Market Street Cafe but I have been warned that a change of ownership has not gone well so we may look elsewhere in Celebration. The main thing we want to do is meet Otis again, who we bumped into and fell in love with last year.



Should time and energy allow we may pop to Disney Springs for a look and a wander (but no spending, unless it’s food).

Day Four

Refreshed and revitalised we shall tackle Universal Studios today. A train ride across to IOA may come into play should we be done early before heading off for dinner at the Teak Neighbourhood Grill. It’s very much a favourite of ours and we’re much closer to it than we normally are so it cannot be missed.

Day Five

It’s our last full day at Universal so we shall mop up any stuff we haven’t done or want to do again, no doubt with a bit more pooling too. The plan for dinner is a Disney one and assuming the ADR Gods are smiling upon us when the time comes, O’hana is the plan. We haven’t been since the girls were very small and that was for a breakfast. We did dinner there back in 2003 I think, so I think we’re due a visit.

Day Six

Our first move and it sees us pack up and head for the beach. We check into Siesta Key, here…
final siesta

and relax. We plan to do the beach, food and some cocktails and beer over the next week. Should we, by any chance get bored of days here…

We always have the option of popping to Busch Gardens for a bit of theme park action.

Day Seven

Beach! Food and alcohol for dinner.

Day Eight

Beach! Food and alcohol for dinner.

Day Nine

A radical change today as golf is on the plan for me and my Dad as we leave the ladies to do the beach. The two courses currently contending for our custom are Rosedale Golf Club and Palms at Forest Lakes. Whichever presents the lesser chance of me losing a dozen golf balls in water will get the nod.  I have planned to drive out for dinner to the nearest Applebees. Again, a firm fave and we don’t have time to fit it in during our Orlando time.

Day Ten

Beach! Food and alcohol for dinner.

Day Eleven

Beach! Again, a drive out for dinner to the local Olive Garden. A perennial treat for us. Nothing fancy, just great food, great value and Emily’s favourite Lasagne on the planet. The bread sticks and salad are as addictive as crack cocaine ( I would imagine!).

Day Twelve

Beach! Food and alcohol for dinner.

Day Thirteen

We leave Siesta Key and head back to Orlando. The plan says Epcot from whatever time we get there and at some point we will check into All Star Sports (Nana and Grandad) and Beach Club (the rest of us) for our final few days and whistle stop tour of the Disney parks. We’ve done the resting, now some proper theme park days!

Dinner is tentatively planned for Beaches & Cream and the night will be spent watching some duelling pianos at Jellyrolls.

Day Fourteen

Hangovers permitting, an earlyish start to get to Animal Kingdom and hopefully we will have enough stamina to make it all the way to the new night-time stuff too. Either way, Louise, Emily and I will all want to ride Everest in the dark.

We always seem to end up having lunch at Yak & Yeti, hopefully leaving enough room for a late dinner at Sanaa, ADR permitting. The bread starter thing is a thing of beauty and delight.

Day Fifteen

Hollywood Studios today for another park day. I’m hopeful of catching Fantasmic so it could be a long day and we may pop out late afternoon to eat at Bahama Breeze before heading back into the park for the show.

Day Sixteen

Where else, but Magic Kingdom to end the holiday. It isn’t everyone’s favourite but it’s the symbol of everything Disney and my tradition is to fight back the tears as we walk out of the park for the last time each trip. Emily does less well at the fighting part!

Dinner may very well be at the end of the boat trip across to Fort Wilderness at Trail’s End, which is too becoming something of a habit/tradition, but we’ll see how the day goes.

Day Seventeen

We have a full day in Orlando as our flight isn’t until around 8pm so I would imagine we’ll be doing our normal last-minute shopping at Disney Springs for gifts, souvenirs and those last few thousand calories before heading off to the airport, long pants and an enormous sulk.

As things change, I shall keep you updated of course!

Till the next time……

Feel The Burn

I don’t really have much of an ego. In fact I tend to spend most of my life admitting to how crap I am at stuff, but should there be one horn I would toot about my abilities in life, I think it would be a horn related to the researching, planning and booking of our American adventures.

This week I have been deep down the planning and research hole. I have been flexing my research muscles and powering through even when, at times, the going got tough. Feel the burn!!

As a result, this week has seen things become firm. Yes, I do get excited during the cut and thrust of some serious planning, but it is our itinerary which has become firm too during the last week and I am very pleased with how things are shaping up.

Of course, the plan as it stands now bears little resemblance to the stuff I’ve been on about here for the past few months, but such is the way of the shifting sands of trip planning.

Our (second) original intention (after abandoning Miami) was to land in Orlando and then drive over to Siesta Key for a week or so. Upon spending more time than even I wished to trying to secure some accommodation there it soon became apparent that Siesta Key is a bit odd. Firstly, they don’t really do hotels. Everything tends to be a condo or cottage type thing, which was no problem for us as staying in one room can be a bit of a tester once everyone spreads all their crap around the room ten minutes after arriving. The extra space appeals to us when it’s an extended stay of more than a few days.

The real problem was two fold.

  1. We seem to have picked spring break as the time of our visit.
  2. As this makes our desired week “in season” nearly every renter only offers Saturday to Saturday rentals which didn’t fit into our plans at all.

Now, spring break did strike a bit of fear into my heart. I imagined this sort of thing at every turn…

and that would be terrible, wouldn’t it!?

I even did some googling to find out how bad it might be and found mention of things such as bikini contests on the beach. Now that sounds OK, but I would need to invest in a new one before we go. Anyway, it turns out that Siesta Key isn’t a college kid mecca and having also chatted to an owner or two there, they confirmed that whilst a bit busier, we wouldn’t be battling hormone riddled, booze addled college kids. Just middle aged ones similar to ourselves.

With regards to the Saturday to Saturday thing, well, eventually I admitted defeat and changed our entire plan to fit in with that. It’s funny how quickly, with the help of the internet you can get into the detail of something when you need to. From that first google search of a destination, (which for me is typically a map of the area and a read of some trip reports and blogs of those who have gone before), you start to get a feel for the place. Then, with the help of some lovely blog readers who got in touch about Siesta Key, the peeling of the onion continues revealing more and more info as you go.

By the end of the research, which is typically when something is booked, you easily recognise street names and the buildings and feel like a resident, as you’ve spent so much time on street view on Google Maps. Just me? Ok……

So now, our plan is thus.

We will be going to Universal from the airport for four nights at the Royal Pacific Resort. We want to wallow in the Potter stuff having ran through it on our last visit (or so it felt) and be able to dip into the parks for a few hours as well as cocktailing by the pool.

Then we drive down to Siesta Key for a week in this lovely little thing.

siesta key 1

Then for the remainder of the trip we have booked into The Swan at WDW for some on site, without really being on site stuff, during which we’ll celebrate Louise’s birthday in the US for the first time.

A car has of course been reserved for the duration and all of this happened using some built in muscle memory action that launches into auto-pilot when required. It is enjoyable and some of the best (albeit expensive) medicine you can take. The happiness gained from this expensive planning drug is one of those unanswerable mysteries of life, like why does David Walliams pretend to be gay when he isn’t, and why do people find that funny?

Now, normally I am a “do it all yourself” type of planner. I have never used a travel agent as to be frank, with most of the high street ones, I feel like I know more than they do and I will definitely put more effort into getting me a better deal. However, this time I have been helped enormously by one, but to be fair, he is a Florida specialist. I’ve been Dibb and Facebook friends with Robert for ages and since he started to work at Ocean Florida he has from time to time tried to help and tempt me with great flight deals that he knew about.

I have always stayed strong (skint) and resisted but when I was looking around I thought I’d see if he could help at all. He was great. There was absolutely no hard sell or pressure and he even told me which bits I’d be better to book direct and which he would quote for. With that advice, both RPR and The Swan are reserved with no deposit. That’s at if you are interested.

So I thought it only fair to give him a plug here and should you wish to receive similar help do get in touch. Oddly, as another person with the same name existed at Ocean, he has to use another name, so do ask for Thomas at or his Facebook link is above.

It’s always a bit gutting when all of this is sorted and all you have is a poorly credit card and a long wait ahead of you, but of course with a Florida holiday there are plenty of other things to be doing. Now, decisions around theme parks and dining need making for the Orlando days, and unusually for us, we can now also make plans for places such as Trader Sam’s and Jellyrolls for alcohol related activities with all of our party being over 21.

Our countdown has just dipped under 300 days, which seems like an eternity but again with many years experience of countdowns I know that sooner than we realise we’ll be at Manchester airport again paying too much for an average breakfast before putting all the weight I’ve just lost back on again in two weeks. It’s the Circle of Life.

Of course, via this blog, you can share my countdown in all its gruesome detail for which I apologise now.

Till the next time…..