This will be brief. We have so much to do that I can’t be spending too much time papping on here. As things stand, with mere hours until our flight leaves, we are going. That could change of course.
Mary was in very poor health on Thursday evening and we thought we may not be going, and for the sake of our mental health, I guess we have to stay in that frame of mind until we are airborne.
The home she will be in is absolutely equipped with everything and everyone needed for any eventuality, so it’s just a case of her remaining fit enough for us to take her in and us getting on the plane. I appreciate that might sound a little odd, but we need this break.
We’ll be dropping her off early this afternoon and have booked about six removal trucks to do so. She’s taking a fair bit of kit with her.
The last week at work has been a constant stream of meetings that I had to drag myself through. I feel like there are a million things I haven’t done, and that I am bound to forget to do something crucial like check-in for the flight online. Someone remind me!
On Thursday I went to the Post Office to grab a few dollars in cash. The least said about the exchange rate the better. It was borderline offensive.
So the plan for the rest of today is to take Mary in, stay with her for a few hours to make sure she is settled, and then meet Tom, Rebecca and the boys for some tea so we can say our goodbyes, before coming home so Louise can hoover the ceilings and re-pave the front drive, as is the tradition if we leave the country for two weeks. It is going to be a busy pre-holiday day.
Emily and her boyfriend Mikey are house and pet-sitting. With the zoo that we have this is a full-time job so please wish them good luck. With two dogs, three cats and a number of rats that I have lost track of they may have to sleep in shifts.
As ever I will be sharing stuff during our trip on the Mkingdon Facebook page so if you haven’t “Liked” that already, what on earth are you thinking? Go ahead and do that so you can see pictures of a lot of food. On our return, I will be doing some blogging around the trip of course but I’m not sure two weeks of pools and food will make for the most interesting reading. We’ll see.
If all goes to plan, in a few hours (well, a good few) we’ll be enjoying views like this, so keep your fingers crossed for us, please.
I have been watching my emails like a hawk for Aer Lingus emails, paranoid they are going to cancel the flight. I even checked availability on the Virgin flights tomorrow in case we end up in the lurch and need an alternative. As of yesterday, there were some seats left. Crazy, right?
I am reluctant to say it but it looks like we may actually be going, but I stand ready to be corrected on that.
So enough waffle, there are things to do and flights to check in to.
Confidence levels that we will get on the plane – Low to Moderate
It has been a stressful old week. Work has been ridiculous but more importantly, until late afternoon on Thursday, we had no respite care booked for Mary. If this were as easily obtainable as hen’s teeth, dipped in unicorn semen, we would have fared better. Louise has spoken to every care facility in the North West, and each one had some new and interesting reason why they could not help us, or it was a dump. We were getting worried.
Anyhow, on Thursday I got the call from Louise that her lastest and last visit to a nursing home had paid off, and Mary was booked in. With this news in the bag, I allowed the release of the suitcases from whichever dark hole they had been stashed into since January and the packing has begun, I am led to believe.
The limited belief that we might go away has risen slightly but not to any level that allows excitement to build. This may be the case until we are wheels up from the runway, at the obligatory half an hour later than the take-off time planned. How I long for a holiday that can be booked with the confidence that it will actually happen. It will be a fraught week to come, as we keep everything crossed that Mary remains in a state of health conducive to going on her holidays to the nursing home.
I am getting so paranoid about travel now that every news event is considered a potential barrier to it happening. Of course, I have persistent low-level fear that the airport will be packed and queues horrendous, and/or the airline will cancel our flight at the last minute, but yesterday when the Queen’s funeral was announced for the day we should be travelling, I spent a panic filled few minutes on google trying to figure out if some ancient custom would mean flights might be affected. I know it’s silly, but I am scarred by the last three years of uncertain plans.
These restrained levels of excitement have probably played a part in my resisting making any more ADR bookings. It is one less thing to cancel should it come to that. I would make an exception for O’hana still, as I would like to tie that in with an evening on the Poly beach watching some fireworks and maybe some Trader Sam’s, but the respite care of the North West had more availability it seems. I am getting a bit weary of having to try so hard to “do things” on Disney property. I yearn for the days when all you had to do was pay a small fortune.
In other news, Freddie completed his first week at school and enjoyed it. More importantly, Rebecca is now past the trauma of him going to school for the first time! There were tears.
Dougie rolled over for the first time and has teeth incoming, and at this rate will be at University next week, and I completed ten years of service at my current employer. I arrived home from the office on Thursday to a huge Fortnum and Masons hamper. It is a lovely place to work, assuming you have to work somewhere (and I do), and Louise was very excited, not so much by the contents of the hamper, but more the hamper itself becoming a high-class repository for our Christmas decorations for years to come.
My Dad is coping OK following his release from the hospital but isn’t in the best of health and our work of course is still not complete, with the eternal promise of “tomorrow” being the completion date. That “tomorrow” should have been Saturday and then today, but naturally is once again “tomorrow”.
We have a bit going on as you can see, and if we ever exist in a chaos-free world again, I’m not sure I would know how to deal with it.
Still, on the plus side, only one more week of this unbearable wailing in blog form to endure before we all know either way. I’m off to rock back and forwards in a corner for quite some time.
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.
Frost and Nixon. Torvill and Dean. Morecambe and Wise. Ali and Fraser.
Over the years there have been many momentous moments were two legends met each other, forever changing the shape of history. Today would see another such event, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’ll be time enough for epoch shaping meet ups later, first, I’m still asleep.
However 4am rolled around again, and in came another work call. I didn’t even answer this one and fought my way back to sleep till 6.30. Like all experienced Dads I made enough noise and created enough light in the room to make sure that Emily was awake not too long after. I showered, dressed and packed and we were out of the room by 8.40. We left our case with the folks in reception, bought some $20 painkillers from the gift shop and then Emily and I went to the Starbucks for breakfast whilst we waited for everyone else. I had a breakfast burrito and a latte and Emily’s veggie options were limited and resulted in a portion of breakfast potatoes and an Iced Macchiato.
We found a table in the courtyard area.
Rebecca, Tom and Freddie came down around 9.30 and joined us there to eat their breakfasts. It was a lovely spot and a really nice way to start the day and end our stay here.
One thing to note at Universal. I had persistent issues with my Caxton card. Everywhere I tried it on Universal property it didn’t work. It may just have been me and my card, but it worked everywhere else for the whole trip.
We made our way down to the water taxi by around 10am.
I have had worse commutes.
We disembarked and made our way to Studios.
It did not look any quieter today.
We rode Minions first, bypassing a grim queue with our specialness.
Those who could rode Rip, Ride, Rockit next. It was still early in the day and I was not ready physically or mentally for this experience. Rebecca’s inability to ride meant we bypassed the horrors of needing a locker and we were on within five minutes after going through another full airport style metal detector. Despite endless signs, announcements and videos telling you that riding with anything in your pockets is not allowed we still waited behind some chap who got to the detector with his phone in his pocket. Sigh.
Top tip: At Universal, if you can travel light, without bags and the like it will make your life so much easier. Clothing with zip pockets are a real bonus here too to hold your park ticket/front of line pass and of course your credit cards.
This, without doubt is the toughest ride physically. The initial climb almost induced a revisit to my breakfast burrito and I was in full rollercoaster Tourette’s mode for the entire ride.
We walked over to Transformers next for a first time ride for almost all of us. Freddie was very excited. We all enjoyed it but I would say it is basically Spider Man with a different film. When you’re four though, that doesn’t matter.
He was extra happy as his Dad had treated him to a couple of Transformer toys in the exit gift shop. We then spent the next half hour trying to get them out of the packaging.
Once we’d finished that and lost half of the small plastic bits that came with the toys, this appeared across the street, so we watched it.
So that Rebecca could take part in something we decided to do the Make Up Horror Show next. Outside was this chap….
This is always good fun but it does have the odd scene that a four year old may not be totally Ok with! It was more the film clips that are played rather than anything that happened on stage.
You will have been quite worried that we had not eaten for quite some time, so we rectified that in the ice cream shop over the road.
It was at this point that Rebecca went for a wee and Emily then spotted Tim and Jen Tracker across the street doing some filming.
When they had finished, they walked across the road towards us. I waved as if I knew them and they kindly waved back before walking up the street to film some more stuff with Scooby Do I think. We thought nothing more of it, but when they were done they walked back to where we were sitting and we had a lovely chat for a few minutes.
They were genuinely lovely, asked about our trip, previous trips, the weather and just general chit chat. Of course they must chat with idiot strangers who wave at them all the time. I felt it inappropriate to mention that he is clearly a long term reader of this here blog as he has commented on at least two posts. I didn’t want them to feel intimidated in my presence.
It was indeed a coming together of two Disney internet giants and they were suitably humbled to have this honour I am sure. They left us just as Rebecca returned. If you watch their video from Universal Studios, filmed on January 12th, Tom features in it for about half a second!
Having made the Tracker’s day, we wandered off towards ET.
I do wonder what sort of deal Spielberg struck when this was built as it is literally untouched since we first rode it. Yes they still collect names as you enter and yes of course they are inaudible as you finish the ride. Freddie did say, when he asked what he thought of ET, that he was adorable which made us chuckle.
Tom took Freddie on the Woodpecker ride….
before we headed over to The Simpsons Ride. Naturally we stopped off to pick up a couple of doughnuts.
In light of my Caxton woes I drew out some cash on it at the ATM here.
We rode The Simpsons ride after Freddie played a few of the carnival games outside, winning more quality items. This time it was a 4 foot inflatable alien which we left in the villa. Matt, you are welcome!
I realised that we had never ridden this before…
and even wondered how long it had been there as I’m sure I have never even noticed it before. We still didn’t ride it.
Men in Black was next.
We avoided both a queue and the lockers again thankfully and it is always a fun ride. I do always feel that it lacks some “feedback” as to when you are actually hitting stuff you should be. It’s all a bit manic and random with no way to know if you are hitting any targets.
Our loop continued onto Diagon Alley. The crowd levels were worse here but that is always to be expected.
It’s a shame as this is one of those places where it would be lovely to stroll around taking in all the theming and detail, but with the crowd levels today our focus was on not bumping into people.
On our last visit, Gringott’s was not a Front of Line ride, so again we had done it once after a lengthy queue. We were pleased to be able to miss the 60 minute standby line and board quite quickly….twice.
Tom was apparently too large to fit into the row we were allocated and we had to disembark and wait for the next one and get loaded into the “Fat Lad” row at the back. This is another very clever ride with lots of detail and it merits multiple rides to take everything in. I did feel that it never seems to “get going” concentrating more on a story line that personally I couldn’t hear or follow very well. I did enjoy it of course. It is very impressive but I do know that both Universal and Disney wait for my weekly posts to get their steer for their future plans so I need to express my thoughts.
We tried our best to have a look around but didn’t stay too long as it was too busy.
Our next ride was Fast & Furious. It was fast and I was furious. It is an awful, awful ride. Granted, I have never and will never watch the films so maybe it was lost on me but the whole thing was horrible. It is an incredibly poor and weak story and concept shoe horned into a previous ride’s infrastructure. I will try not to spoil it for those yet to ride, but the concept of a party bus doing stunts is the main premise. Endless bangs and crashes for endless bangs and crashes sake on an uncomfortable ride vehicle riding through a story that makes less sense than Brexit. Perhaps I was just over the whole simulation thing. There are lots of them here.
On our way over to Fallon, I stopped to get four packs of crisps. $8. Kerching. We sat and inhaled those sat opposite Fallon waiting for the upcoming parade.
We then entered Fallon (in previous years, when I was less mature, that would have been the set up line for a hilarious gag) and rode without any wait. This is another simulator, but one of the better ones.
At Freddie’s request we rode Transformers again.
Followed by a browse of a memorabilia shop.
That was said to be the guitar from Back To The Future. Freddie got a slightly cheaper Slimer toy from Ghostbusters.
It was 6pm now and Tom forced me to do Rip, Ride again. I girded my loins and steeled my body for the battering to come, just like Fallon did not long ago! Boom. That level of comedic genius is why you read this dross.
I was spent as we headed for the exit and the boat back to Royal Pacific. We were back there in no time, collecting our cases from Luggage Services before heading back to the van. Technically, I walked to the car park to get it and then drove it back to the hotel entrance to save Rebecca more walking.
Tonight’s dining plan was….
and we got there in about fifteen minutes. It was very quiet and we were told just to pick any table. It may sound strange but our server was a bit odd and it stuck us that he maybe wasn’t a regular server as he was a bit all over the place.
Anyway, we ordered appetisers.
A Mediterranean trio for me.
Mozzarella Bricks for Rebecca and Emily
Pretzel Rolls for Tom
Our server only took our appetiser orders and we waited an age after finishing them for him to appear and clear them away. As he did he asked if we wanted the bill! Very strange.
We pointed out we were fat knackers and wanted entrees too so he took our orders.
Emily and I had the Jack Knife burger, with a suitably non meaty patty for Emily.
It was OK but I instantly regretted venturing away from my usual Donut or Cronie Burger. I had chosen this one as it was said to come with Hollandaise sauce. If it did, I could not taste it.
Tom had The Pig
Rebecca, the Bolder Betty
Freddie had the burger from the kid’s menu.
Overall, this was probably our worst experience at Teak. It was not bad at all, just not as we have experienced it previously. How quiet it was meant there was none of the usual buzz and atmosphere and our server was bobbins, bless him. The bill was $175 including an overly generous tip and we were all very, very full.
A tired drive home saw us back at the villa and in bed by 10.30.
Before we move on, it’s probably right that I add a bit of context and follow up on what was a fairly negative post at times last week about our experience in Magic Kingdom that day specifically, which was a more extreme version of what we experienced a lot during the trip.
Disney have a lot of credit in the bank with us and we will of course return. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected our perception or even tempered our usual burning desire to return, so they don’t get a free hit. However, there were lots of extenuating circumstances that lead me to give them some benefit of some doubt.
Our mood – Louise’s absence and the worry about her Mum’s condition definitely made the trip feel very different for all of us. No doubt this was reflected in our approach to things and my reporting of the trip here. Don’t think we didn’t enjoy stuff. It was just different and a bit muted.
COVID – This was right in the middle of the Omicron wave and the parks and resorts were still heavily affected by COVID, not offering many of the experiences, attractions and shows that would typically soak up crowds. This inevitably had a huge knock on effect and led to long, long lines for the rides as there wasn’t as much to do aside from rides as there has been in the past.
Pandemic pent up travel – I am sure there were many people there in January, like us, who would not normally be there at that time. Two years of restricted travel meant that crowds were bound to be higher once folks were allowed to and felt more comfortable travelling.
Genie+ – It was and is still fairly new. Don’t get me wrong, I think its an abomination and an insult to loyal guests to have them pay out hundreds of dollars more for what was always included in your park ticket, but in terms of the practicalities of getting onto rides, I’m willing to cut them some slack as they were probably still getting used to it and optimising things. As I say, I still hope they kill it with fire.
So all of those things conspired to make our experience, at times, less than we would usually expect and enjoy. The world wasn’t in a normal place at the time of this trip and neither were we to be honest. So with all those caveats in place, I stand by my opinion that Genie+ is shite, the parks were less than they usually are and some “magic” was missing.
Right, on with the trip.
Today we were headed to Universal and our stay at the Royal Pacific. 4am features at the start of may day again, but this time not voluntarily. Some idiot back in the UK called me. It was work related and to make matters worse, it was some cold call about something not relevant to me or my role. Safe to say, he did not make a sale.
I regained slumber until 6am. I was up, finishing off packing, showering and breakfasting when Emily came downstairs at 7.30. We were all ready to go by 8.30 and I pointed the van up the I4. It was a clear run and we pulled into the car park of the Royal Pacific around 9.10am. I self-parked and we headed inside to check in. It took a while. I stood watching a bloke tap at a keyboard for more time than getting a hotel room should necessitate and in the middle of it he charged me $28 to park, which I felt was bordering on taking the piss.
On the plus side our rooms were ready so we headed off to 2429 and 2427.
I was very pleased that I had opted for the “Tree View” upgrade.
Emily and I literally dumped our case in the room and turned around, waiting in the corridor outside Rebecca and Tom’s room for about ten minutes whilst they did stuff necessary when you have a four year old and a bump.
It was early and still quite chilly so it was no shock to see an empty pool.
We were security’d and on board a taxi in just a few minutes. The park tickets, stored on their app all scanned fine at the entrance too.
It had been a while so it was nice to see some familiar sights again.
Armed with our Front of Line passes we felt invincible and unstoppable, so we had no need to be frantically refreshing an app to look at wait times. We wanted to ride Spider Man first, so we did.
There is a clear contradiction here, in that I have moaned about Genie+ and paying extra to ride stuff without a queue at Disney, whereas we have willingly paid to stay on-site at Universal to get those perks. I get that. The difference?
Well, we only ever spend 2-3 days at Universal, if we go at all, due to the extra cost in doing the on-site thing. It has been years since we visited and we only do so when we can afford the extra cash needed to do it. Universal is also easily just a 2-3 day thing, especially with Front Of Line. Disney can often be a two week adventure.
With that in mind, Disney is the foundation and mainstay of our trip and if charging extra continues and/or increases then we and I suspect many others, will begin to plan differently. Something has to give, so less would be spent on accommodation, number of days in WDW, on site dining, and souvenirs/merch if the only way to ride headliners is to pay $8-15 each or pay $15 each to have a chance at avoiding endless queues. It feels like optional spending is being replaced by almost mandatory spend, which if you are on the Disney board or a shareholder, in the short term that’s great. The long term effects as you lose long term loyal guests may not be the win you think it is.
Anyway, we rode without waiting and it is still an impressive ride, especially if you are 4 and obsessed with Spider Man.
Tom was impressed with the ride. Having seen videos of it on t’internet he said it was much more intense and enjoyable than he had expected. Speaking of intense, next Emily, Tom and I went to ride The Hulk. Of course before we could do that we had to strip down to our underwear and stow everything but that in a locker. That is a faff. They do love a locker at Universal and it’s just hard work, especially when it is busy.
Anyway, after longer than it should have taken we walked through the metal detector and onto the ride. We joined the main queue and waited about five minutes. We were lucky to be seated on the back row and well, wow, that launch.
I don’t know why all that netting is still there. Everyone is relieved of anything loose before riding so unless it’s there to catch vomit or body parts it may be redundant.
I left the ride weak at the knee and a bit light headed so the best remedy for that was food. It was 11.20 after all.
I whipped out the app and had a look at eateries. Keeping it simple we chose the one we were stood outside just by the Hulk.
I had a cheesy meatball sub, but that’s what happens at my age.
Tom had the same with pizza for everyone else.
We decided to wander across to the Seuss stuff next.
Cat in the Hat was first.
Rebecca obeyed the guidance for this one and sat out, but I’m sure she would have been fine. Still, not worth the risk of course. There is always a weird feeling riding these things with Freddie when about twenty minutes ago I was doing the same with the girls at his age and above. Life is what happens when you are busy surviving the never ending grind of earning a living.
Onward now to One Fish, Two Fish. There was no queue but that was not going to stop me using my Front of Line thing,
Emily and I played it sensible recognising the still very low temperatures. Rebecca suffered at the hands of Tom, who disobeyed all the instructions and got them all wet.
In the natural flow of things next we should have ridden Carro-seuss-el thing. However it was in a very bad state, looking like it was half way through being dismantled. Instead we moved on to the Circus McGurkus thing. I am slightly ashamed that after all these years I still don’t know the proper names of some of these things.
There was an upsetting ten minute wait despite our specialness. Louise called just as that ended and we were boarding so we promised a call back.
I appear to have taken a lot of photos on this ride. There were some interesting views of course, but I think it was more to capture the fact that it was running. Nearly every time we have been in the past it has been down.
I cannot explain this photo.
We got some cakes at the shop near the exit of this ride and had a seat whilst we chatted to Louise. Tom took Freddie off to meet/watch the Grinch in a show just down the street.
Having let the crowds build nicely, not caring one jot, cloaked in our special on-site status we meandered, nay, ambled over to the Potter stuff.
By jingo it was busy here.
This is the ride we did first, and I am grateful I took the photo as it will save me having to spell it.
Another hit with Freddie. We then left him and Rebecca to wander whilst the rest of us did Forbidden Journey. The last time we came this ride was not included in your Front of Line perks, so we have only ever ridden it once after a very long queue. It was nice not to have to worry about that today. We could also leave all our “stuff” with Rebecca and hooked onto the stroller to avoid more locker carnage.
It is safe to say that I had forgotten the intensity levels of this ride. Wow, it’s a sinus clearer. Very good, very intense and incredibly well done.
It had now been far too long between ice creams for Freddie (and Tom) so we went in search of one in the direction of the Jurassic bit. None were found so we rode Kong instead.
Freddie was tall enough, but on balance some of the “scenes” may have been a little intense for him, but he did not even raise an eyebrow.
This may not win any photography competitions.
Ice cream and churros were found not far from Kong as we continued our loop around the park. It was 3pm by now and still cool enough for hoodies etc. So it made perfect sense to take on a water ride.
First up the impressively insane…
We left Rebecca with our stuff and for once I don’t think she was too sad about not being able to ride. There was a minor kerfuffle as the team members shoe horned Tom into the ride, but eventually with only minor damage to his leg, we were off. There is a horrible moment once you set off on this thing where you realise that unless the ride breaks down or there is an act of God, you are going down the big water ramp at the end. It’s bad enough in the relentless Florida heat of August, but in the very cool January afternoon, today that horror was intensified.
Freddie was at the front and got soaked on the first tiny dip so it did not bode well.
All I remember now is as we crested the hill and started to dip downwards to our doom, a cry of “I have changed my miiiiiiinnnndddd” escaped from my lips.
Too late. We got wet.
We walked back to Rebecca, already chafing, already freezing cold, searching out strips of sunshine as they emerged. At this point, it made complete sense to ride the Bilge rat thing too. We couldn’t get any wetter, right?
This one is such good fun. Every time you ride it you are constantly scanning your surroundings looking to avoid splashes and soakings. You know it is pointless. Everyone emerges from this ride as if they had sat in a bath, but still you try. We all loved it.
Rebecca had brought Freddie a change of clothes so he was whipped away to be changed. Selfishly, she had not planned ahead for anyone else though so we had to fend for ourselves.
I swapped my wet T-Shirt (steady!) for the sweat shirt I had stuffed into Ryan so at least my upper half was only moist. Emily did the same.
Emily, Tom and I then set off hoping to ride Velocicoaster. We arrived hoping to do single rider to limit our wait times but that lines was closed, at capacity. The queue looked a bit grim, and this one was not included in our on-site perks.
A 40 minute wait was posted and to be fair it was pretty much bob on. In this case, that wait was absolutely worth it. My word, what a ride. It is very hard to describe, but this is clearly a “next generation” rollercoaster. Incredibly smooth, surprising, nicely terrifying, very fast and with a few “I’m out of my seat” moments. Incredible. Ride it.
We made our way back to Rebecca and Freddie full of adrenaline. They had walked back to the Potter stuff and Tom took Freddie on the Hippogriff again.
Those who could rode Forbidden Journey again. We used our perks to get straight to the front where we then waited fifteen minutes to ride. It turned out they had to close the ride for all but one party with a disabled guest.
Freddie wanted to ride Spider Man again. We set off in that direction and it was chilly enough, for idiots who had got soaked to warrant a hot chocolate on the way. We rode with the web slinger again, and then Tom forced me to do Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall with him. I had never ridden this before, due to cowardice. It was, as I expected, fun and horrific in equal measure.
Whilst we did that Emily took Freddie on Spider Man again. See what happens when you have on-site perks?
I have to admit that my aging body was broken at this point and I gladly rested whilst Tom and Freddie played in the arcade.
The girls and I wandered some shops for a bit before leaving the park around 7pm.
They were setting up for some private event by the looks of things.
Once at City Walk , Emily and I went into the new Universal store in search of warmer clothes. It was downright cold now.
Emily got some joggers and a T-Shirt and over at the Legacy store I got a long sleeved top both for now and for tomorrow as the one I had brought from the villa was moist.
We had a reservation booked at
This did not seem to count for much as despite checking at 7.45 for our 8pm reservation we were still stood outside trying to keep warm until 8.30. I had a few moans at the lady on the podium, but it seemed everyone was waiting a long time tonight. Why take bookings if you can’t honour them?
We ordered drinks and appetisers.
These blurry beers are very cool….
Ah that’s better…
Our appetisers were appetising. Bacon Fries and Fried Pickles. They were not photographed but that did not detract from their deliciousness.
Entrees were –
Freddie – Chicken Nuggets
Cheeseburgerooshi for Tom, Rebecca and me. One the tastiest things in Florida!
Veg roll for Emily
I had a deconstructed Cheesecake
I didn’t write down how much it was.
We walked out into very chilly weather and over to the water taxi. We waited about five minutes which was long enough in the temperature that night. We went immediately to our rooms and beds, happy to get dry and warm. Sleep came at around 10.30.
As much as a rest day is welcome in the punishing schedule of a WDW theme park based holiday, it does not make for a blockbusting, action packed trip report extravaganza, as I have often said. To be honest when you are as many trip reports in as I am, there is little I have not said before. I am not saying the park days offer anything blockbustery either, but that’s more a reflection of my poor writing skills. However, today was a rest day of sorts and I must make the most of it so here we go.
It’s always good to start a rest day by waking up at 6am of course. It’s a two hour lie in compared to the rest of the holiday so far, and I cannot fathom why this trip, for the first time, I was suffering from jet lag on the way out. My body would just not adjust to US time.
I forced myself to lie in bed till 8am. To be honest it it didn’t take too much forcing. After a shower and locating an accommodating T Shirt, we left the villa at 9.20 bound for I Drive. It’s unusual that we do, but certain eateries entice us there from time to time. I know many love that area but it’s not somewhere we have ever spent a lot of time. Being of boundless wealth, we can of course justify such snobbery.
This morning we were headed for…
to indulge in some life threatening gluttony.
On the way, the I4 was a bit busy and we did some crawling around Lake Buena Vista but eventually arrived at 10.10am. Being a Saturday and using the parks as a guide of how busy everywhere was, I was expecting to have to get a tram to this parking lot too, but it looked fairly quiet as we pulled in. We valet parked mainly as there never seems to be any alternative and we were seated immediately. We have seen the place much busier on every other visit.
To give you an idea of the calorific content you may onboard in a visit here, these are just the coffees.
Tom ordered the Camp Fire Smores Mocha, which had an inch thick crust of marshmallow on the top of it.
It’s always hard to order here as the menu is huge, but the main dilemma for me is critically, do I go sweet or savoury. We got our drinks and had a think….
We ordered –
Rebecca – French Toast
Emily went savoury with Avocado on Toast. The tree branch may have been optional.
Freddie just went with the Kid’s pancake….
I opted for Brown Sugar and Banana Flapjack, which would be a great name for a band….
Tom had a “Farmer’s Thing”, which as a Snickers Flapjack with sausage and egg.
Emily polished hers off and even helped Rebecca out a bit. Freddie did not finish, but that will not be a surprise.
Tom and I powered through and cleared the lot from our plates. I am equally proud and ashamed of that feat. My appetite is not what it once was for sure. I am developing old person’s stomach which seems to be a continual expansion on the outside, versus a continual retraction on the inside. I am not a fan. There were several times this trip when I would get angry with said stomach for getting full well before I had finished enjoying stuffing food into it. This however was not one of those times. Sure, I was full and should have stopped eating well before I cleared the plate but the deliciousness overcame those pesky thoughts of sanity and reason.
The bill was $140 including a good tip and we waddled out to get the car back from valet, tipping them $5, still not knowing after all these years if that is an insult or not.
It’s hard to drive when your stomach is as full as mine was but I got us back onto the 192 where we stopped at Target for “bits”.
As ever these shopping stop offs are random, with a trolley full of loo roll, drinks, snacks, pool toys and various personal items I will not recount here. It did not contain any video games, despite Freddie’s best efforts.
Tom tried to resurrect his quest for an Apple watch but there was no stock to be had here either. Bloody Brexit!
We drove back to the villa and once there, had a chat with Louise.
Rebecca, Tom and Freddie spent some time in the pool and I sat on the lanai strategising for our upcoming stay at Universal. I was looking into what was available to onsite folks for early hours and what was and was not included in the Front of Line access perks. I decided and decreed that we would do IOA first. Feeling happy with my decision I retired to bed for a nap. I dozed for around 90 minutes and upon waking felt like death. Clearly my body had decided to abandon any benefits of sleep during this trip.
I onboarded many painkillers and got myself ready to eat again. Yes, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.
We left the villa at 6.10pm and headed for Disney Springs. We parked in Lime on the very top floor and made our way down, through security and made our way across to House of Blues for our ADR. Sweet mother of Mary it was busy. It was a Saturday so we had loins girded for such, but it was madness. We struggled to even walk together and had to keep stopping to regroup along the way. We arrived at HOB at 7.10, I checked us in and we were seated ten minutes later.
I’ve taken better photos….Tom is vaguely aware of me pointing the camera in his general direction and Rebecca, being very much my daughter, is of course, more interested in the menu.
In all these years we have never eaten here. I think I popped in for a wee some years back, and another year we missed an ADR here as we got stuck at Premium Outlets in a torrential rainstorm, so it was nice to have the chance to finally see what the food was like.
Anyone else getting Hans Solo vibes here?
As we often tend to do, we started with Nachos.
There was live music on, which is nearly always a good thing, unless it’s Coldplay.
Party on Wayne!
For mains I had the Pulled Pork Platter and it was glorious.
Tom had a Juicy Lucy, but we would find a suitable cream for that in CVS later….
I wrote down that Rebecca had a burger……yep, I got nothing…
Freddie also had a “Burger”, but a different one….
Can you guess what Emily had?
I did note that this one was an Impossible burger to avoid any animal involvement.
Look, my meal was really good and I think my brain fogged over with the enjoyment and when I made notes later, “Burger” was the best I could do.
Everything was really tasty and the service was good. Emily had two cocktails with absolutely no regard to the effect on the bill which was $180 with tip.
We left, envious of Freddie’s ability to be pushed around.
We wandered a few shops and thankfully it was a little less busy by now, but not much.
Our wanderings took us back in the general direction of Lime.
We were all full and tired, again, for the second time today and not for the last time this trip. I shudder to imagine the calorie count for today so I won’t.
I drove us home in a pre-diabetic haze and we were all in bed by 10pm, me looking forward to another seemingly unavoidable early rise. Not a euphemism.
As Phil Collins once said, against all odds, we somehow managed to get away and have this bloody holiday. Sadly, as has been well documented and lamented pre trip, not everyone who should have been there was, but I am still claiming it as some form of kharmic victory that we won the war of attrition and got to have some sort of a holiday.
It’s fair to say that this victory was in doubt right up until the last minute. I was not sure I would could/would be going, leaving Louise behind, literally until I walked out of the door. It is safe to say we have had happier starts to a holiday, but with all those caveats aside let try to take you with us on this trip and share what we got up to, mainly what we ate and what sort of experience you have when you try to have a holiday mid-pandemic.
The title is the catch phrase of our trip. Every time we joined a queue, arrived at a restaurant or needed to wait anywhere for a few seconds, we would hear “Why’s it taking long?” For clarity that was Freddie, and not me, but at times it was close. More on queues and waiting later!
I awoke at 5.30am when my alarm sounded. I was dressed and showered ten minutes later and I got mine and Emily’s cases into the car. The goodbye to Louise was not easy, but we were on our way by 6.10. The mood in the car was subdued to say the least.
I managed to find my way to T2 West car park avoiding the £5 fee this time. If you drive through the drop off lane you have to pay £5 for the privilege and this time, determined (and tight) I spotted a sign at a key roundabout to avoid that. Having made that saving we could now live it up large on holiday of course.
We parked up on Level 2, and as we were dragging the cases from the car Rebecca, Tom and Freddie got out of their car just a few spaces away from us. We masked up and wandered into Terminal 2. It was quiet and we were surprised to see that check in did not open until 7.30am and we were expecting a 7am opening, the usual four hours before take off. We loitered at the relevant place and then just as it was about to open we were approached and asked if we had checked in online. We had. So we were then diverted to a self serve kiosk. What could possibly go wrong? I am after all a technical genius and not some middle-aged boomer who is struggling to cope with the modern world. Right?
The process was not simple. Somehow we managed to weigh and label all our cases but then needed human help anyway as we had a stroller and a car seat to check in. Even then we had to walk all the way down to the large item drop off with the car seat. Trying to be helpful to Rebecca and her pregnant state, just Tom and I walked down only to discover we needed the boarding pass and passport of Freddie, which Rebecca had in the bag, and she had to come down anyway. Sigh.
COVID wise there was no bother. The VeriFly app did all the work and as long as you are all green and good to go on there, no checks were made of any vaccination records or anything else.
Restrooms were used and we made our way through to security. It was painful. Ryan (for anyone who doesn’t know, Ryan is my rucksack) had been pulled to one side for further inspection. That resulted in a ten minute wait whilst some burly Mancunian had a good feel of my sack. It turns out Emily had put her lip balm into Ryan and left it there. Having decided the liquid was harmless, Ryan was released and we could now head for food. All the queues and faff were over. Or were they?
Terminal 2 at Manchester seems to have changed a lot in recent years and it is fairly unrecognisable from many of our previous trips. It appears now to only have a couple of eateries and both had huge queues. Peaking into the restaurants we could see a load of empty tables so we could only assume they were having staffing issues. Being very clever, Emily and I joined one queue and Tom and Rebecca the other and we would see who got to the front first. After about fifteen minutes we both got to the respective podiums simultaneously. We chose San Carlos.
Me – Full Works Sandwich
Freddie – Kid’s Breakfast
Rebecca and Tom – The Full Italian (see what they did there?)
Emily – Smashed Avocado on Toast
Juice and coffees all around, but they had no orange or apple juice, and this delicious lot was £85 including a tip. It was very nice indeed.
It took an age to pay. Our server just kept avoiding our table it seemed for some reason, so I told everyone else to go and do their shopping etc and I would wait to pay. With that done, I restroomed ( I am but human after all) and went to not one but two WH Smiths. I was in search of water and a notepad for the taking of trip report notes.
At the second Smiths I did find a suitable pad and took it to the self checkout thing along with my water and Emily’s mints. The pad had no bar code on it so it could not be scanned or paid for. I await my arrest.
Our gate had not yet been put up on the boards so we had a sit down for a few minutes. Tom wandered off in search of an Apple Watch from the Currys store. Much like San Carlos, they had no apples either and he was denied. Remember when shops and restaurants had pretty much everything you wanted? Good times.
Gate A6 appeared on the board so off we went.
We sat at the gate and as ever, watched everyone queue up for no reason. We boarded last and found our seats. Louise’s seat was empty. I had only cancelled her ticket a few days ago so I was hopeful I would at least have some extra room as a result of a bad situation.
The leg room was fine, and overall I could not fault Aer Lingus. We will definitely use them again. Comfort wise they were fine, soft drinks were free as were the headphones and I could find nothing that would deter me from booking with them in future.
Here’s a picture of my huge sack between my legs.
Everyone else was in a four across the aisle.
This was my view as we waited around an hour on the tarmac.
This again was caused by staff shortages with baggage handlers. Instead of our 11am departure, it was almost 12.20pm when we picked up speed down the runway and took off. In that hour and a bit, the chap in front of me went to the loo twice. See a doctor for goodness sake! One of my pet peeves about flying is that you never take off at the time on your ticket so I was not enjoying this “wasted time” sat on a plane that was not actually moving. Taking off, when Louise would normally have my hand in a death grip was when it really hit home that she wasn’t with us.
I plugged in the head phones after drinks and a packet of at least eight pretzels were served and was delighted to find Series 1 of The West Wing on there. Over Christmas I had started to re-watch this and I was about half way through the first season. I polished off the rest during this flight.
After a while I spotted a small sign saying Wi-Fi was available. I didn’t get it, but I think it was about £6 for 50GB of data.
I found the meal to be very tasty. I had Beef Stroganoff (the other choice was Chicken Ravioli).
Emily and Freddie received their pre-ordered kids and veggie meals without issue.
After a while Freddie came to visit to give his Mum and Dad a break. Clearly my engaging conversation skills were not lost on him.
The flight was scheduled to take nine and a half hours. There was no explanation offered, but it felt like longer. That extra 90 minutes or so than we have had previously really made a difference. I got so bored that I went into the games section of the in flight entertainment and taught myself how to play Texas Hold Em poker. Sadly that was not the name of any of the films on offer which may have been more entertaining.
As we continued to fly, seemingly endlessly, I was starting to make my notes on events so far. Every time we do this trip I hate the faff and stress of getting to Florida. The whole morning is complicated, stressful and usually an early start. Of course, I’d rather be doing any and all of that than going to work, but each time I say I will try to enjoy the experience, but I don’t. Travel day is always a mess of hurry up and wait and wanting to get the next bit of faff over with so you are closer to your destination. An inability to enjoy the journey must be some kind of life metaphor I’m sure.
As you will have seen from the photos above, masks were required and they would be for large chunks of the holiday. Honestly, we had no issues with them at all, and in fact in many scenarios they made us feel safer and more protected. On the flight there were of course a good number of folks with them under their chins and noses and I spent a good deal of time glaring at them in a proper British passive aggressive way. They are required so do it properly!
At the airport we had spotted a service dog with someone. It turns out they were on our flight. It seemed odd seeing a dog on a plane, but every time it wandered by with its owner all I could think about was where was it peeing and pooping?
At some point we were served an ice cream which was also very nice. We were in the hard yards now with about three hours still to go. I watched The Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife or something like that. I noted it was 19:37 UK time at this point.
Our last food was a pocket chicken tikka thing. I don’t why I am always hungry on a flight, but I devoured this in no time. As we got into the final hour and a half I started to watch some episodes of Friends, mainly as I could tell myself if I watched three we would be almost there by then.
Finally, finally we landed at 21:40 UK time, 16:40 in Orlando.
Immigration was a delightful ten minute wait. Just so you know, even if all your party are on one locator form you still need to go up to the immigration chap in separate households. The cases took a little while and as ever we ignored the double bag drop thing and carted everything up the escalator and onto the monorail. Mayor Buddy Dwyer, it was good to hear your voice.
We then dragged everything over to the “B” section to get our car. After an interminable series of elevators and stairs we found our way to the SixT desk to get our car. There was nobody in the queue, just me waiting for one of the two agents to become free. As the next one did she told me that desk had now just closed and we would have to go over to the desk in “A”. Yes, all the way back to where we had just walked and then some. I asked if she could possibly process me before closing as we had been flying for what felt like 27 days. Nope, off we went. I will gloss over my feelings and emotions at this time. This was not a good moment.
Once we got to “A” I was sorted in five minutes. We were directed to the relevant garage and were handed our keys. On the way we stopped at the Visitor Toll Pass Booth. I had pre-ordered this and it is a toll pass thing linked to your credit card that you hang from your rear view mirror. It means you can use the automated Sun Pass lanes rather than fiddling around for quarters. I recommend it. So there was no choosing of your vehicle with SixT but we were very happy with our Chrysler Pacifica.
With Louise not travelling we were able to collapse two thirds of the rear seat to give enough room for the luggage. Had she been with us she would have had to find her own way to the villa, so that was one positive.
Once we got to the 192 I realised we had done so, in the dark, with no headlights on and I hurriedly found the relevant knob to correct the error caused by the other knob who was driving . But the toll thing was a big success. For many years we have been trying to find change and had to stop at teach toll booth when all you want to do is get to your accommodation.
Finding the villa was fun. It is on a very new development. So new that my trusty sat nav had never heard of it and even Google maps was struggling. I called the number the owner had given me to be talked in, stopped in at the clubhouse of the incorrect development and finally found the right guard house for Solara resort. Freddie was asleep in the car at this point and if this carried on much longer I would have been too.
We got there eventually and my word the villa was stunning. We all found our rooms and I did some unpacking. Tom and I then headed out to the supermarket for supplies. There was another struggle to actually find a way out of the development but we wended up at the Berry Town supermarket on the 27. Two trollies and $214 later and we were done. We needed food so wandered to the pizza place a few doors down. It was 10:27 now. I know that as the chap there told us they closed in three minutes and he didn’t seem that happy to see us. We ordered two large cheese pizzas and waited outside. He handed/threw the boxes at us and quickly locked his door. The pizzas were $34.
Getting back to the villa was easier this time and we all inhaled some pizza and fell into beds at 10:30 Orlando time, 3:30am UK time. I was exhausted.
It may be an age thing, but these travel days seem to get harder and this one had been a struggle for all kinds of reasons. Anyway, onwards to less stressful and fun times, right?
I hope everyone had a glorious festive period. My radio silence over that time was intentional. You didn’t need me moaning about the usual stuff as you celebrated. Also, a lot has happened since I last posted.
The main thrust from a COVID restrictions point of view is that there haven’t been any, yet. I’ve long since given up trying to predict what may happen. We will just deal with whatever happens as it does. That all became fairly insignificant on the 22nd of December when Louise’s mum was found at home after not answering her phone for a few hours, having had what was thought to be a minor stroke. She was taken to hospital and remains there.
At that point of course none of us were even thinking of the holiday. It was apparent at that point that based on how she was then, we could not be sure of anything, least of all a trip to the States.
Over Christmas her condition has improved marginally and at least she is speaking a little and knows who we are. The hospital she was in for the first week or so was in lockdown due to a COVID outbreak and it was heart-breaking not being able to visit. We Face Timed every day so at least she got to see us that way. She has now moved to her local hospital and Louise at least is allowed to go and see her.
The long term implications of all this are unknown at this stage, but as much as we can say, she seems relatively stable now and out of immediate danger as much as anyone aged 90 can be after what she has been through. Please send her your collective best wishes for a good recovery. Here she is in better health not long ago.
Over many long discussions, despite Louise deciding not to travel, she has been adamant that the rest of us should go. We have been debating and worrying about this constantly and none of us are entirely comfortable with that option.
It would take too long to cover here all the different elements and factors around making this decision and whichever way it ended up going, none of us could say we would be totally happy.
With Mary now in a bed in her local hospital rather than the specialist stroke unit at Salford and with her having improved slightly, we have decided to take the trip without Louise. Even typing that makes me uncomfortable, but for many reasons, and mainly not to break Freddie’s heart by cancelling, we are going to go ahead.
If I heard someone else was doing this I would be shaking my head in disappointment and bewilderment so I understand anybody else doing the same. I could go into all the reasons for doing this but it would only be to make myself feel better and that wouldn’t work either, so it is what it is.
All this comes before any concerns about the current state of the pandemic of course but everyone who can be is triple jabbed or recently recovered in Tom’s case and he now has to wait to get the booster, so we have done all we can. This trip has always felt like a war of attrition and going despite many internal voices screaming I shouldn’t seems the only way this saga could have ended.
What sort of trip we will have I don’t know. It obviously won’t be the same without Louise being there for a start before we add in the worry about Mary and how Louise is coping back at home. There will be a lot of video calls for sure. Whether we will be able to relax and have some fun remains to be seen but at least Freddie will get to go on what will be the first trip he remembers after what has been almost two years of telling him he is going to see Mickey. Moving the trip again wasn’t an option for a couple of reasons. One, Rebecca is 20 weeks pregnant so any trip for her now will need to be at least 12 months from now when the new arrival is at least six or seven months old and of course we have no way to know what will be happening with Mary with anything like the degree of certainty we would need to know when a future trip my be possible for us all.
Rocks and hard places have been the story of our festive period.
So I’m a mess of conflicting emotions. I feel like a dick for going and leaving Louise at home but she wants us to go and have a good time. In addition to abandoning my wife and mother in law I am flying my family into the eye of a horrendous COVID storm in the shape of Florida and more trivially most of the parks seem to have closed 70% of their rides for maintenance the day before we get there. Can you feel the positive vibes gushing forth for this trip??
Hopefully it will all feel better once we get there. Negative tests permitting of course.
Speaking of which, I did my required testing this morning and the results confirmed my suspicions and feelings about myself right now.
We are all thankfully negative. Once we had decided to go ahead we have literally hidden ourselves away for days trying to avoid all human contact. It feels like more people have COVID than not right now, so a full house of negatives is a miracle I was not expecting.
Let’s see what we can make of this trip with all these positive vibes going for it!
As ever on our trips, I’ll be going live on the Mkingdon Facebook page from time to time so give that a Like if you want to be pestered by that.
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.
I really should know better and by now, tempting fate should be the last thing I do, but, if I am honest, at times I can almost convince myself that we may actually get to go on this holiday. Well, from a COVID restrictions point of view anyway.
Other life events, particularly the well being of Louise’s Mum may play their part yet, but I don’t think we will see any further travel restrictions now. Let’s face it, it is impossible to undertake any more testing than is already in place and with Omicron now everywhere in the world, there is very little to be gained from closing borders.
The other event that happened this week has also all but confirmed that we will go. We have bought two new suitcases. That investment means there is no turning back now and we must be aboard that plane.
What sort of trip we will have is a different matter of course, with all these tests, masks and faff but we take what we can get at this stage.
That’s one way to look at things but as with every painful twist and turn through this epic will we won’t we saga it is equally easy to argue that every passing day sees the messaging being ramped up about the need for further restrictions and rather than just do them, the powers that be as ever leak out teasers to test the waters and soften us up.
Literally anything could happen between now and January 3rd. I think it is pretty likely that January will see some tighter lockdown rules in the UK once we’ve all done our duty by spending all our money in the shops and at our Christmas parties, and if we do get to go then we may just miss their introduction but come home to them. Ten days quarantine for returning travellers anyone?
It is a bit surreal to be this close to a trip and still not know if we will go. This is the closest we have got of all the dates we’ve had booked, but for our own sanity I think we have had to not let ourselves believe it is happening. I’m not even sure if and when there may be further reviews and announcements. Having gone into plan B in a panic to divert the media has he now shot his bolt that he had loaded for the 19th of December?
It probably doesn’t matter as only a US change of policy about their borders would scupper us I think. My guess is the first we would hear about that will be if it happens. I am so weary of tossing this same coin what feels like every week now. I’m sure you are too.
So we go on, day by day, edging closer to a final answer. If I were a betting man and had to put a money on one outcome I would say right now it’s more likely we get to go, just. Only just. Much as this endless uncertainty has removed much of the wind from my sails for the anticipation of this trip it has also removed the same wind from writing about it, so we will leave it there for everyone’s sanity and see what next week brings.
It sounds counter intuitive but I have been through some really dark times in relation to this bloody holiday. Of course, that’s me being a drama queen and it shouldn’t be like that, but we live in unprecedented times.
Last week, I think it was Tuesday, I approached the point of “this isn’t worth it”. I’ve been close at various points and there wasn’t one major event that broke this camel’s back, so I guess it was the culmination of lots of straws.
I awoke to a message from a blog reader over in the States. Yes, that’s right, this blog IS international baby. He was giving me a heads up about a rumour that testing requirements were about to change in the US. I was still sulking and reeling from the move to PCRs on the return to the UK so this was not surprising, but it was unwelcome news.
I did some twittering and other internet things and it did seem that it was a real thing and we would need to do our fit to fly test one day before departure and not the three as we had previously thought and booked. Even as I type that, I see it isn’t a big deal. At the time, it felt like a body blow and started my journey to the edge of my tolerance.
As I tend to, I found myself not waiting and seeing but instead trying to move our tests before the hordes tried to, once this was eventually announced. Why I thought there would be any hordes suddenly taking up all the testing slots on the 2nd of January, I don’t know. I’m tired.
I found the way to do it on-line and quickly and easily moved the video call for Louise and I to a new date. I asked Emily do the same with hers (she will be at her boyfriend’s so will need her own call). She tried. It errored and I had no choice but to phone them up. As I was finding how to do that I got a text from our test provider confirming I had moved our test successfully and they were reminding me it was tomorrow, so don’t forget. Tomorrow? What were they talking about? How could they be so stupid.
They weren’t. I was.
In my haste and a multi-tasking maelstrom I had moved the test not to the 2nd of January but to the 2nd of December. I now had to urgently contact them as that slot was the next day.
I will gloss over the frustration and despair caused by 45 minutes of the same hold music and skip to the part where as soon as they answered, my signal dropped and I was disconnected. Objects were thrown, things were shouted. Thankfully I was alone in the house as Louise had taken her Mum to A&E after a funny turn. It’s been a “fun” week all round.
Another 55 minutes on hold and I got through to some poor soul who had to deal with me at breaking point explaining the mess I had made and what I needed. Even though I had her confirm several times what we now had in place once she had sorted it, and I got confirmation emails, I was still not convinced it would all go smoothly. Anyway, we had three tests booked across two different video calls for the 2nd of Jan now. Rebecca, Tom and Freddie booked their own tests with a provider that only allow you to book 30 days out so they can and have now just selected the 2nd of January with hopefully more competence than I did.
On top of all that, we then had the wait until 6.30 UK time for the Fauci press conference that my US blog reader (thanks @pabs) had tipped me off about. I was still fearing closed borders and a communal burning of our passports and park tickets.
In the end, Fauci seemed quite chilled about the whole thing, briefly mentioned the one day test thing and that was it. For now then, we are still on, but I dread every day for new developments. Now of course, with Louise’s Mum’s hospital trip, that also casts a doubt over our ability to go on holiday and leave her. She’s 90 and lives alone. If we get to stand on Main Street and look at the castle this January, I may cry for the first week of the holiday in absolute relief.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, somehow fitting all that in between a ridiculous workload, I think I actually said out loud, “this isn’t bloody worth it”. I’m sure, no, I’m hopeful that these dark clouds are temporary and somehow by hook or by crook we will finally get to go on this bloody holiday, but I can’t let myself believe it just yet.
Then Friday morning came and like some weird lucid dream, my fears were realised and confirmed. We had emails from DocHQ telling us our tests on the 2nd of January had been cancelled. Tethers were waved at as I passed the end of them and I assumed the position on the phone again pre 8am. Surely at this time I would get through?
Of course not. The line would not even connect. I was googling around to find an alternative phone number so I could shout at someone when I stumbled across their Facebook page where a post announced they had dropped a bollock and cancelled a load of appointments in error and would re-book them all. How I laughed.
My mental state is no doubt being replicated amongst all travellers soon to be on their way. You only have to look at the Facebook groups and the huge amount of confusion and mis-information being thrown around by folks in a tizzy. Everyone is looking for clarity and reassurance and just to know what to do. What ends up happening is more panic. I engaged on one such post where it was suggested that the 1 day fit to fly would also need to be PCR. There was absolutely no mention of that anywhere by anyone in a position to do so in the US, so I don’t know where it came from, but chaos ensued in the thread as everyone was fretting about how on earth they would get a PCR result within 24 hours without paying hundreds of pounds for each test. Where this is a vacuum of information, folks will fill it I guess. That could be a strap line for my entire blog.
Why folks are inventing new hurdles when there are plenty go around already I do not know.
As I do every week, I hoped that was the end of the stress and worry about this trip. Then, last night, the latest kick in the twins came when the UK government announced that tests were needed before flying back to the UK. I was out gigging last night so I have no clue what tests those might be, crucially how much they will cost and whether you need all the certificates and stuff, but I suspect you do.
You will know that I have always been supportive of measures to shorten the pandemic. I am triple jabbed, have worked from home, worn masks and everything else asked of me. What I find unfathomable is the mixed messaging of “you should absolutely continue with all your Christmas plans and have loads of parties in crowded unventilated locations” but should you dare venture out of the country then we will make that as hard and as financially unattractive as we possibly can.
If anyone has figured out what this new test before flying home is (PCR vs lateral flow? I guess the latter) and whether it needs to be video supervised/done by a person and then a certificate entered onto your Passenger Locator form, I would be really grateful for that information. At this point I just need to work out if this is worth the unending obstacles being put in place. I suspect these won’t be the last thing either.
Shit got real last week, with planning stepping up several notches. Well, I say planning, it was more holiday admin that needed doing.
I booked our tests on Friday. Yes, irony alert, my impeccable timing knows no bounds. They came to about £43 each for the fit to fly video one and the day two return to the UK test. Both are lateral flow and of course events have conspired to see those being irrelevant for the return leg now, and we await the US’s changes in response to this variant, as they may well insist on PCR for arrivals too, but more on that later. Our pre-flight tests are booked for New Year’s Day. My paranoia around positive results has not abated. I am pleased to see that tests these days seem to only involve a nasal invasion as I only have to look at the swab to start gagging. Avoiding putting long foreign objects in my mouth is a life rule I like to stick to.
I have downloaded the Verifly app as advised by Aer Lingus and as soon as my vaccine certificate covers our departure date I will start filling stuff in. I am actually due my booster in early December so I will hopefully be completely Teflon to any and all diseases that may come my way. If it and wearing a mask on the plane can stop me picking up the usual stinking cold I have got on the last few trips I will be happy.
I did some painful things too, like paying the balance on the villa, paying for the hire car and securing our Universal tickets, also known as everyone’s Christmas presents. I went for the cheapest option available which was a 2 day ticket, but limited to one park per day. The only thing that prevents us doing is the train journey between parks and for the hundreds of pounds difference in price, we can watch it on YouTube.
I downloaded the Universal Resort app, where my tickets are now resting digitally, ready for use. Upon doing so I noticed you could make dining reservations for restaurants there, most importantly City Walk, so we now have a lovely booking for Cowfish on our first night there at 8pm. With just two days in these parks they will be full on theme park commando affairs, so eating at 8pm, just as the park closes is the only acceptable time.
I still haven’t seen a definitive answer on those 3 day tests for Freddie. I’m pretty sure nobody checks them, but whether you can take an NHS freebie or have to buy one in a pharmacy there, it makes little difference. At least there’s no video consultation involved.
I also filled out our passenger info on the Aer Lingus site. I was amazed to find I hadn’t already, but maybe I did but it got lost in one of the 17 re-bookings I had to do.
Of course, as mentioned above the Universe spotted all this activity and financial outlay and delivered a threatening COVID variant that could well derail the whole trip and maybe all international travel again, but hey, let’s not worry about that right now. That would be nice, but by now you know that isn’t my style. I did not take the news well that PCR tests were now required, hours after booking and paying for lateral flows. Beyond that of course if things don’t go well over the next few weeks, and let’s be honest when has it during this pandemic, my fear is the trip will be impossible again. You may have noticed that today’s post was a little later than has been the case recently and that was because I had to nip to hospital to have my bottom lip surgically restored to a more natural position. I have been in a sulk and a strop since around tea time yesterday.
So yes, it’s been a busy old week on the holiday front, and the metaphorical kick in the balls yesterday’s changes delivered were comically timed after I had finally started to give myself permission to believe that we may actually go. I see the cosmos waited though until I had undertaken maximum financial exposure before allowing all this shit to kick off. I don’t have a persecution complex, I am just persecuted.
I do have to say that if our plans do get scuppered by some COVID related shite, then we’ll give up. It won’t be practical for Rebecca to travel any later into her pregnancy and Louise will find it impossible to get time off beyond January for quite some time. We’ll be looking at mid to late 2023 for any plans to be a reality at that point.
If travel to the US is suspended again, it won’t be pretty around these parts. I’m just putting out an early warning!
We have also planned another trip, tomorrow, over to Cheshire Oaks. Louise tells me we need some new luggage and not only that, buying it online and saving petrol and about three hours driving would be a folly beyond comprehension, so off we will go. Whilst there I will take the chance to procure some hoodies. Yes, I know I have some already and most are only a decade or so old, but what the heck, I deserve it. Looking at photos right now in Orlando, it seems there may be a lot of chilly nights so a couple of good quality hoodies will be essential. Emily is cold in Florida in August so she may have to buy extra luggage space on the plane for the amount of layers she will need to take. Now you see, even that shopping trip seems a bit futile. I am deflated and demoralised by the whole thing. Again.
If I allow the grown up in me to speak up, it would say that the likely outcome here is that the only change to our plans will be having to fork out for a PCR test for our return to the UK test, and most likely the same for the fit to fly as I expect the US to follow suit, on top of the money already pissed away on the lateral flow version. In the scheme of things, that’s not too bad, but if you look up all the times I have said “in the scheme of things that cost isn’t too bad” I could have bought a second home.
My inner child, which is currently writing most of this post is screaming Verruca Salt style that the Universe hates me, it’s all really unfair and if this trip gets cancelled I will be in a tantrum for about six months. It’s all about balance.
On a serious note, if we cannot go, the thought of no WDW for at least another 18 months, and all that uninterrupted work instead, well, I can’t tell you how that makes me feel. I suppose I just tried.
So you find me not in a good place today. All I can do is sit and wait, again, with thousands of pounds dangling by a thread, not knowing, even this close to the trip whether we will actually go. As many of you will have experienced, it has just drained all the joy out of the now, almost two year build up.
You can return next week for more positive vibes and mature takes on life threatening pandemics that are inconveniencing my holiday planning.
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.
The Cheesecake Factory
50’s Prime Time
Hash House A Go Go
Miller’s Ale House
Jungle Skipper Canteen
Teak Neighbourhood Grill
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!
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.
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.
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!
It won’t surprise anyone reading this to learn that I have a well developed persecution complex. Most weeks, despite living a largely untroubled and privileged life, I can find something to moan about. I often trot out the phrases “you couldn’t write it” or “you couldn’t make it up” to bemoan whatever the latest minor upset might be. However, after what has been a troubled couple of years holiday wise, the events of the last week or so really have been comedic.
Having moved our Florida trip four or five times (I have honestly lost count) when the last cancellation happened I did jettison my toys from the stroller a little and instead of moving it, I cancelled everything. Breaking the habit of a couple of decades, off I went and booked a holiday to another country, crucially nowhere near the US. What could go wrong?
Within a few days of doing so, a volcano in The Canaries that has laid dormant for half a century suddenly became active. Sure, it doesn’t currently seem likely to affect our plans but we don’t know for certain and my head shaking was incessant at the “you couldn’t write it” aspect of this.
Whilst licking those wounds, and lay on the couch Facetiming Rebecca chatting no doubt about our upcoming trip not to America, Emily cried out at some news she had just seen on her phone. I did indeed feel a disturbance in the force.
“The US border is opening in November”. she relayed.
Once that had sunk in after a few seconds, my stomach churned and those special words escaped my lips. “You couldn’t (expletive) write it”.
After a family chat including phrases such as “It is what it is” and “It’s too bloody late and hard now to cancel The Canaries”, I entered into a mild sulk. I did fire up a couple of apps and checked out flight prices to Florida for 2022. Having laughed long and hard at the prices for anything close to summer my mind began to whir.
My inner Verruca Salt kicked in. I told myself things like….
“You work really hard (highly debateable) and deserve the holiday you really want”
“I still haven’t had my 50th trip and I deserve that too”
My mind began to do its work, thinking about when we may be able to get over there. I won’t bore you with all the details, but the logistics of getting six of us (at least) away at the same time, balancing everyone’s work, life plans, other commitments and of course finances is on a par with undertaking a moon landing.
After much analysis and discussion (including Tom persuading his Boss to be very flexible with his holidays) a very small window of opportunity emerged. Flights were checked, research was done, chats were had with the owner of our villa of choice and it was decided.
We are returning to WDW on the 3rd of January 2022.
This would not be our ideal time of year of course. Temperatures will be much lower than we prefer but at this point that does not matter. Again, for reasons I will not trouble you with, if we were not to take this chance, it would be very unlikely we could fit a trip in during 2022 and having not been since mid 2019 this would be very upsetting indeed, indeed probably totally unacceptable.
Appreciating the absolute carnage that is probably ongoing now in the rush for UK tourists to book stuff, I feel quite smug that we have pretty much everything in the bag for prices we can tolerate.
Having had the Aer Lingus refund for several hours, I gave it all back, booking flights with them again. Let’s not dwell on the fact that I could have got a voucher for our flight price plus 10%. This whole thing is already a shit show of incompetence and bad decision making, let’s not make it any worse.
Our villa of choice was thankfully just about available. We will have two days at the end of the trip for which we need to find somewhere to stay as the villa was booked for those. On that note I did think we would use our DVC credit notes (remember those?) to stay somewhere nice on-site to end the trip. Having spoken to the DVC rental company, they tried our dates and there was not one DVC room available on any property in Orlando. What the f…..??
I have no idea what is going on there, as I am not a DVC expert. I am hoping over time things settle down and something does come up that we can use. I am as we speak in “talks” with the folks I have my credit notes with to try and source something suitable.
Having not had our refund from Floridatix of course, and now needing some tickets (I know, I know…) I contacted them. Amazingly they were able to use some of my refund and move that to a brand new booking within minutes, but yet, it looks like I still have another month at least before I may see any sign of monies owed to me. Funny that. These new tickets should arrive any day now so I can do our park reservations….again.
So all of a sudden we have two holidays in close succession and our holidaying budget will be well and truly drained, but after the last couple of years I give not one shit. There is still much to know of course. There has been no formal announcement on the exact date in November when borders will open and what tests will be needed and how kids fit into all of this. By the time our dates roll around I am sure….no, I am hopeful that will all be sorted.
Needless to say I have resumed vlog watching, actively seeking out some from January to see how bloody cold it might be. We have been once before at that time, back in 2005 into 2006 but memories fade over time. I seem to remember the days being fine, but fleeces being required at night. I have a vague memory of buying the girls gloves and woolly hats to watch Fantasmic.
Whatever it is, we shall make the most of it. The reduced heat should make for less weariness and getting more done. We have had to sacrifice Universal which is very upsetting, but the budget just won’t stretch to the extra thousands involved in tickets and an on-site stay. Next time. That cash is sitting now with TUI for our October trip. Water parks will probably also be out of bounds and indeed closed in January? I can’t remember, but we will just go eat instead! Any thoughts of using our DVC credit notes for Vero were scuppered after watching a vlog or two from that time of year, with folks on the beach wrapped up as if they were in Blackpool in Autumn.
Having ignored most of the Genie+/Lightning Lane stuff, hoping it would go away, I am also hoping that in early January, in what historically has been one of the quietest times in the parks, we will not need them. All bets are off I know, post pandemic, and there could be three hour queues for everything, but I’ll take my chances in a more positive frame of mind on that than if we were going next August. I suspect things will take a couple of years at least for crowds and travel patterns to settle again.
So Florida looks to be re-opening for us and normality is returning. On that note I went back into the office for the first time on Friday. It was not something I was looking forward to and all I will say is that it lived up to expectations. It is only right and patriotic of me now though to support our glorious Brexit cause and conserve petrol by not driving to the office again for quite some time. Until of course they work out a way to put all our sovereignty into petrol tanks.
It seems most of my colleagues are on board with this plan already. See the bustling environment I was working in by 9.30 on Friday morning.
Anyway, all that matters is that we have a plan and a countdown and I can now try to use them to block out all the real world shite that is going on. Balance has been restored to the force.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before we get started, for all of you that enquired about the hot tub, it’s sold. Sorry, I know that will be disappointing but I had to go with the highest offer out of the one I received on eBay, so to the none of you who expressed an interest, I am sorry you missed out.
So that was pleasing news this week. Cash in my sky rocket and the neighbours won’t need to bleach their eyes after seeing me sit in a blow up bath on the back lawn.
It’s been another rage inducing week of things getting worse Covid wise, with all the talk now of things not opening up. Biden met with Johnson this week of course and there is every possibility that having done so he launches the nukes rather than open his borders.
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, mainly due to Aer Lingus telling me, honest Injun, that there were only four seats left at that price on our flight, we have had to take the plunge and get seats booked for my Mum & Dad. We’d hoped to leave things loose until later in the summer when things may be clearer about travel to the US, but their marketing technique worked and now my Mum & Dad have joined me in the speculation market surrounding holidays.
The “only four seats left” trick seemed a little fibby when I was able to request seats next to our existing booking with ease, but I am sure they were being totally honest. This triggered a series of other planning requirements that I executed yesterday. The complexity of the adding ons, rearranging and planning is high, but I am, I think, up to that challenge. My life to date has brought me to this point and I have developed a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.
Having done some research on vehicles that would accommodate our engorged numbers and all their equipment it seemed I had three choices. A 12 seater transit van type thing (with windows), a 15 seat monster or start taking lessons for my HGV licence. I opted for the first of those and we now have a “Transit van equivalent” reserved with Discount Florida Car Hire. Their flexible approach has been invaluable in all this mess. Way, way back when I was much more naïve, I had booked our (much cheaper) car hire with my usual US Rent A Car. I’m afraid their policies were still the rigid and expensive model if you wanted to make any changes so I cancelled them some time ago sacrificing my £50 deposit and haven’t looked back.
So, according to their web site this is the beast I shall be aiming down the I4 after a nine hour flight and little sleep.
So that we can secure theme park reservations for Mum & Dad an order has been placed with Floridatix for 14 day Disney tickets. They should come next week. They have heeded my advice to give Universal a miss on our first two days. It will give them time to recover from the flight, receive and get used to their scooters and not waste a chunk of change on theme parks that don’t offer that much they would wish or are allowed to do.
Two days by the Hard Rock pool should be a nice way to begin their holiday.
So it’s been a busy couple of days in the planning of the trip that never happens.
Outside of that I have fixed our boiler. I say fixed, it wasn’t really broken, and shouldn’t be, as it is pretty much brand new and state of the art, but that, like many things in this house was the problem. The previous guy liked a gadget and therefore everything is “smart” or has a remote control or both. All that had happened was a drop in pressure on the boiler. Now, I may not be the handiest of men but I have always known or been able to figure out how to do that. Not with this boiler. There was no tap or lever to do this anywhere. I watched endless You Tube videos in which plumbers skirted around the issue and when I did find a video about our specific boiler it seemed my guy had a non-standard option installed with regard to refilling pressure. Of course he did.
I even sent photos to a plumber (he asked I don’t send any more of “those” photos and keep it to ones of the boiler) and even he was stumped. After many hours, I took the front of the thing off again, pulled some bits down that were pull downable and there hiding behind a black pipe was a small brass thing. I tentatively stuck a screwdriver into it and turned and the sweet sound of rushing water and a rising pressure gauge told me I had cracked the Da Vinci Code. Why so hard?
Then, yesterday I moved onto the grass. Yes, I know I only moaned about cutting it two weeks ago, but it seems when I cut it back then I just made it angry and it has in that time put a lot of effort into making me mow it again.
I did two hours yesterday and got about half way down the field. I did briefly consider wonder how much it might be to pave the bloody thing, but I may be out there again today trying to tackle the rest. I hear lots of advice about getting sheep or similar, but we have enough pets thank you and that restraining order from the RSPCA is still in place anyway.
So, the plan has changed, again. The number of travellers increased on the Dibb Vacation Planner (the one thing I still use The Dibb for) and it now has more moving parts than our boiler. If you plan to be in Florida in September, firstly, let’s hope we get to be there, but secondly if you see a white van hurtling around WDW with two scooters strapped to the roof that’ll probably be us. Give us a wave.
I am not, it may shock to you learn, a “wait and see” kind of guy. One thing I am not blessed with is a laissez-faire, let things unfold attitude. Things escalate quickly with me, and after digesting the news and implications of the vaccine announcements last week, it became obvious to me very quickly that the 1st of March was going to be too soon. I suspect that the act of writing my thoughts down in last week’s post actually helped me to process all the information and options. So, yes, you guessed it, here we are, with this holiday rearranged again, on its third set of dates.
Why did I come to the conclusion that March wasn’t happening? Well, my thinking is….
Our government seem to be suggesting that Easter 2021 will be a reasonable timeframe to vaccinate most of the vulnerable folks and begin relaxing restrictions etc. That’s April at best.
Biden won’t have a chance to do much until late January so the US vaccine rollout will probably be worse and not better/quicker than ours.
Even if borders are open for March, it would (in my view) still see theme parks with mask policies and that’s not ideal especially with a three-year-old who won’t understand why he is being forced to wear one.
So, I began the initial investigatory work on new dates in earnest early last week. The real push to do so actually came from a blog reader and long time Dibber/Disney associate, Matt, who contacted me after last week’s blog. He noted that I had said our current villa would not be available for any dates next year should we need to rearrange the trip again and he kindly suggested that his villa might be suitable. It just so happens that when he sent me the link, his villa was a gorgeous and glorious affair, very close to where our last booking was.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself a little. At that point, I had defaulted to our usual late August range of dates. I’m not sure why. I guess my inner diva wanted my birthday in WDW, having been denied it last year and we have just always gone at that time. After chatting with all members of our travelling party though, for reasons I won’t trouble you with, those dates may not have been ideal for various plans already in place for 2021.
So after discussion, it was suggested we look at earlier dates in the summer. So we needed a time that was far enough away that things may be somewhere adjacent to normal but close enough to avoid the reasons that late August wouldn’t suit some of us.
Typically for me, within minutes of that discussion, I was a whirling dervish of planning, spreadsheets, google searches and waiting to speak to Virgin. I was a little upset to see that US school kids are on holiday in June, but a little research suggested June was not as busy as July and early August. To be honest, I think all bets are off for what counts as busy for 2021 once things start to free up a bit.
I was a multi-tasking, multiple chat window planning animal. I had the usual chuckle whilst Virgin tried to tell me the price of our new flights, as they had apparently more than doubled for the first dates I suggested to them. It almost made the 90 minutes on hold worthwhile. A couple more tries with dates and a play around with cabins on a few dates saw new flights secured for less than the ones we had booked in March, so I’ll be getting a nice refund once they process that, so most likely it’ll hit my bank account just before next Christmas.
A quick request to Matt to change his quoted dates from August to June for the villa and that was secured too. So, before I get into any more details, I will share our new villa here, as everyone likes looking at Florida villas, don’t they? Here’s a random room from it.
I have taken the opportunity to start from scratch with the plan. There are some radical new ideas and approaches being taken for reasons I will share with you even though you don’t care. Those crazy new ideas have also been joined by something of a greatest hits element, with us somehow squeezing more into the time we are there and going back to some of our favourite hotels.
We will still be staying at the Hard Rock, and Louise and I will still get our night at the Beach Club that I was given for my birthday. The most radical change, breaking the unbreakable law that you have to be in Magic Kingdom on your first day is that we will begin our holiday at the Hard Rock. When working through the change of dates, I spotted a huge flaw in my original plan and that was that our 14-day WDW tickets would run out a day too soon if we went to a Disney park on the first day of our trip. So I had to go left field and have us go directly to Universal from the airport for two nights there, enjoying Front of Line access to everything.
From there we check into our villa and begin our time at the Disney parks. Our one night at the Beach Club slots in nicely in the middle of the trip and then, in a real quart and pint pot extravaganza, I have somehow shoehorned in two nights at the beach towards the end of our trip. This is always popular with sun-worshipper Louise but we all know that Freddie will also love time on the beach and a couple of days of not having to be somewhere at set times will be welcome for all.
I had toyed with the likes of Clearwater, St Pete’s and Cocoa Beach, but like a tractor beam built of familiarity and reliable quality, Vero Beach pulled us in, with our resistance being futile. We haven’t been there for many years and it will be lovely to go back.
So, having skipped this crucial detail so far, our new dates see us departing on the 14th of June and returning on the 30th of June 2021. Come on vaccine….do your thing and get us to some state of normality by then. I am missing WDW very badly indeed and need some incentive to shed some lockdown pounds too.
At this point, I just want a holiday that actually happens. I still don’t feel totally confident that even these dates will go ahead yet, but hopefully, as we move through the winter and spring, with lots of folks getting the jab, restrictions will fall away and life can begin again. As much as I do enjoy and (if I may say so) excel at planning all this stuff, having done so three times now, I do need the actual release of having the holiday at the end of it. Let’s have a collective crossing of fingers for this and everyone else’s upcoming trips.