Yacht Club Or Bust.

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.

Image pinched from disneytouristblog.com

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.

Till the next time……

Travel Tribulations

Number of days remaining until holiday – Low

Stress levels – High

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.

Till the next time……

Cautious Countdown

Firstly, thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes last week. They were all read and appreciated. The day was spent at work, so it will not rank in my all-time top 10 birthdays, but I got to spend the evening with these dudes and eat some pizza, so all was not lost.

Present wise, recognising I am a bugger to buy for, I did very well. A new iWatch (my other broke a few weeks ago), a huge pack of Pick n Mix, some cash, clothes, a very posh neck pillow for the plane and some dollars for spending on our (hopefully) upcoming trip.

On that note, having endured most of 2020 and 2021 reading these posts each week where I would prattle on about a trip to Florida that wasn’t certain and usually did not happen, I can only imagine your delight that we are back there again now. At least it can only last for a few weeks this time and relies on the health of some parents and not some global pandemic inflicting grief, misery and destitution on the world.

My Dad is home from the hospital as of Friday, and Mary carries on carrying on. As we stand, the trip is on but excitement levels are low, to avoid what could be likely disappointment.

Having talked about how I was going to go with the flow and not plan anything, last week, with all of you already knowing that I was lying, I caved and booked an ADR. I would have booked two had there been any availability on any evening of our entire trip for O’hana, (what’s going on with that?) but there was not and so we just have the one, so far, at Sanaa. That bread service is like a tractor beam.

For those times when we may wish to eat on site, I have been doing some “same day booking” tests with the app. For several days I have fired it up and looked for places to eat that evening and there has been plenty to choose from. So I am trying to hold firm and not tie us to specific times if I can help it, so we can just make plans once we know when we want to eat. Then I can give Louise three hours to get ready, having lied about the actual time of a booking by at least half an hour so that we may only set off half an hour late.

You know we have many off-site places we have to go to, so our on-site culinary adventures may be limited. Having had a quick look at some options around the Swan & Dolphin and noticed that Shula’s steakhouse has a $155 steak on the menu, then it could be McDonalds for many meals!

Our off-site list, as if you haven’t seen it a million times before, will probably include…..

  • Bahama Breeze
  • Olive Garden
  • Romano’s Macaroni Grill
  • Teak
  • Applebees
  • Cowfish
  • Cheesecake Factory

The last of those probably being the standout of our January trip. We have declared them the server of the world’s best Nachos and I will not be taking questions or entering into a debate about that. As Louise is the world’s biggest lover of Nachos, it stands to reason that we return to let her sample what she missed earlier this year.

I had a number of very understandable comments on last week’s post doubting my ability to resist going to the WDW parks, particularly Epcot, as we will be staying so close for half of the trip. My resolve is strong, but of course, all I have seen in my Disney social feeds since booking this trip is how empty the WDW parks are right now and folks are being paid to go on the rides….well, not quite.

There are no plans to change our plans, as we need a relaxing break and the extra cost and complexity of us attempting the Disney stuff is just not compatible with that. I’m not saying my brain is 100% comfortable with that stance, but it’s what we’re doing!

It does feel like everything park related is going to take a good few years to settle down. Perhaps by then, we’ll have been able to ride Remy and Rise?

I was delighted to realise that many of the hoops we had to jump through in January to get on a plane are no longer a thing. Using the VeriFly app this time was much easier, simply uploading our vaccination QR codes and attesting that we had a passport and that was it.

So we’re two weeks away, don’t know if we’re going and doing much of the prep to do so at the same time. It’s the Schrodinger’s Cat of a holiday.

And of course, the work in the garden isn’t finished.

Till the next time…..

Coin Toss

I really should know better and by now, tempting fate should be the last thing I do, but, if I am honest, at times I can almost convince myself that we may actually get to go on this holiday. Well, from a COVID restrictions point of view anyway.

Other life events, particularly the well being of Louise’s Mum may play their part yet, but I don’t think we will see any further travel restrictions now. Let’s face it, it is impossible to undertake any more testing than is already in place and with Omicron now everywhere in the world, there is very little to be gained from closing borders.

The other event that happened this week has also all but confirmed that we will go. We have bought two new suitcases. That investment means there is no turning back now and we must be aboard that plane.

What sort of trip we will have is a different matter of course, with all these tests, masks and faff but we take what we can get at this stage.

That’s one way to look at things but as with every painful twist and turn through this epic will we won’t we saga it is equally easy to argue that every passing day sees the messaging being ramped up about the need for further restrictions and rather than just do them, the powers that be as ever leak out teasers to test the waters and soften us up.

Literally anything could happen between now and January 3rd. I think it is pretty likely that January will see some tighter lockdown rules in the UK once we’ve all done our duty by spending all our money in the shops and at our Christmas parties, and if we do get to go then we may just miss their introduction but come home to them. Ten days quarantine for returning travellers anyone?

It is a bit surreal to be this close to a trip and still not know if we will go. This is the closest we have got of all the dates we’ve had booked, but for our own sanity I think we have had to not let ourselves believe it is happening. I’m not even sure if and when there may be further reviews and announcements. Having gone into plan B in a panic to divert the media has he now shot his bolt that he had loaded for the 19th of December?

It probably doesn’t matter as only a US change of policy about their borders would scupper us I think. My guess is the first we would hear about that will be if it happens. I am so weary of tossing this same coin what feels like every week now. I’m sure you are too.

So we go on, day by day, edging closer to a final answer. If I were a betting man and had to put a money on one outcome I would say right now it’s more likely we get to go, just. Only just. Much as this endless uncertainty has removed much of the wind from my sails for the anticipation of this trip it has also removed the same wind from writing about it, so we will leave it there for everyone’s sanity and see what next week brings.

Till the next time…..

Birthdays and Baldrick Brainwaves

Another week goes by, and as time tends to, so does another year. We had a birthday this week as Emily turned 24. Believe me she is struggling to come to terms with how that happened as much as you may be. At some point I’ll let her into the secret that no matter what age you actually are you never really feel like a proper grown up and everyone is just busking it and doing their best to get by.

We all enjoyed her cake, made expertly by Rebecca, who is developing a real skill for this sort of thing.

Freddie had some for brunch minutes after arriving with it.

As you may know from previous Julys, Oli shares Emily’s birthday and the big daft bugger is now a mature 8 year old with fading tolerance for the not very mature Bean. It gets to us all.

We had a family takeaway curry on Friday evening to commemorate the day and over ordered so spectacularly that our fridge still contains Naan bread and some curry. That is never a bad thing.

Onto matters of planning. Surely there can be nothing left to plan? The issue is that most folks have a lengthy countdown to these trips, and with planning being interesting, fun and a way to make trip seem closer (assuming you are wired in the appropriate way, and I am), over time you end up adding stuff and planning bits and pieces because of all of the above. However, with just the 30 days to go until departure, this week I excelled myself and conducted an act of planning genius so cunning that I can’t tell you what it is. It is more cunning than Mr McCunning, the teacher of cunning at Cunning Town School for foxes who wish to be more cunning.

There’s a few reasons I can’t tell you. One of them is that I know for a fact that Bob Iger reads my blog every week and if he realised the brilliance of my act he wouldn’t know whether to sue me or hire me, and I can’t take the risk he’ll choose the wrong option.

Other reasons include the fact that whilst it absolutely does not break any rules, if everyone did it, then Disney would probably put things in place to stop it or at least make it more difficult. Also, now that I have bragged about my brilliance I want to wait and see if it comes off before admitting to what it is so I don’t look (more) stupid. All I will say is that it has been an issue I have been wrestling with for a while and all of a sudden during last week inspiration came to me. I quickly made the relevant arrangements and felt pretty smug, if not smug or confident enough to tell you about it.

If you never hear of this again, you will know which way it went. If it works I will probably admit to it in the trip report and then you can all tell me you all do it anyway and everyone knows about it and I am in no way clever or special.

Loins are being girded right now, ready for the FastPass thing to start on Tuesday. As we are off site scum, I will need to try every day for two weeks to secure the passes we want for each day 30 days hence. Day one is usually fairly stress free as Magic Kingdom is our park of choice and there’s typically a good enough selection of rides and attractions to get decent FastPasses. The thinking is to secure Mine Train if we can, something like Haunted Mansion and then a ride ideal for Freddie. We may ride Peter Pan but only with a FastPass. It always seems to have at least a forty minute wait and we won’t be doing that.

The FastPass pressure will really be on for the days we are at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios to get those rides everybody wants. Stay tuned for me trying to put a positive spin on getting FastPasses for the bird show at DAK and the car park at DHS.

Ryan has now been rescued from his cupboard where he rests between trips. All relevant documents, tickets and anything trip related such as the digital camera I only ever use in WDW, are being randomly stuffed into him. A tactical repack of Ryan will happen close to departure so that things are to hand in the order I will need them during the journey. This is in no way sad.

The next major milestone will come post pay day on Wednesday when I will sit weeping, looking at the dollar rate for a few hours before realising I have no choice but to order some anyway. As cunning as I am, I have yet to find a way to rig the currency markets for my own benefit as your Rees Moggs tend to. I spit on your Brexit. Anything which make my holidays more expensive, by definition, cannot be a good thing.

And on that political bombshell, I shall return to my Sunday and wish you well for yours….

Till the next time…..

The Hundred Day Bore

For hardened rock and roll legends like myself, there’s a condition that afflicts us all, especially when you are of a certain vintage. Gigamortis is ravaging my body this morning after a Mustard outing last night at a 30th birthday party in Stockport. I told you I was rock and roll.

As enjoyable as playing is, it comes with a lot of pre and post show effort and of course a late night, so waking up the next morning feeling stiff (and not in a fun way) is an occupational hazard. It feels like I have been run over by a truck. I think it was the third stage dive, or maybe the twelve foot knee slide that may have tipped me over the edge.

On second thoughts it may be that I was sat in the lounge at 1.50am with a cup of tea and three jaffa cakes that destroyed my body. There’s only so much candle burning anyone can take.

Louise is working all weekend again ( I do wonder why these politicians keep going on about moving to a seven day NHS?) so that gives me a great excuse to do very little aside from the daily walking of the dogs. Rebecca, Tom and Freddie are due for Sunday tea later. In my current state the chances of me making a Sunday roast are zero, although I make good one, so a Chinese is on the cards.

You know that food is important to this family, and I suspect most of those coming for tea will be pleased with my decision. On the subject of food, whilst I was out gigging last night, a prior crime caught up with me. Here is a snippet of our family group chat of which I am not proud, but, you leave stuff like that in the fridge for more than a couple of days and there is only one outcome.

Now then, whilst you are here, look, we are at an important milestone….

Is there anything more tedious and tiresome that some idiot telling you how many days it is until their holiday? Suck it up, I’m telling you anyway. The digits will be double tomorrow and this countdown does seem to be progressing nicely. Being busy at work helps with that I guess, and on this week’s to do list was the renewal of my passport.

Much has changed in the ten years since I got my last one. Firstly, it seems a lot easier to do it now. It’s all online and you can supply your own photo. Last time I was up at the local Co-Op pumping pound coins into the photo booth trying not to recreate the Tenacious D video for Tribute (Google it). There were also a load of forms to fill in and post off if I remember rightly. We’ve come a long way baby.

The other thing that has changed is my photo. If you compare the two photos from this week and 2009 all I can say is that they are a fair reflection of the trial and tribulations of the last decade. I won’t be sharing the new one as I have the look of a stroke victim or a very tired middle aged man. Either way, it didn’t enhance my fragile sense of self-confidence.

It takes around three weeks for the new one to arrive and then I’ll have to go online and update all of our ESTAs, as Louise and I both have new passports and we need to put our US accommodation details for this year in. I’m not sure that really matters, but if it saves me a cavity search at Orlando airport it seems a small price to pay.

I have resisted the ADR urge this week. There was a brief moment whilst watching a Tracker video that a dessert party was almost booked (it was the Star Wars one at DHS we were watching, and the food looked tremendous) but a quick google confirmed my suspicions that it wouldn’t be on when we are there as Galaxy’s Edge will have just opened and you’ll need a FastPass just to get into the parking lot.

One thing I am trying to build into this year’s plan is something I’d be open to your suggestions on please. One thing we like to do, Louise especially, of an evening is to head back to the villa for showers, a liberal application of After Sun, and some loose fitting clothes and to head out for a nice meal. You know all that of course, but as an additional bonus, somewhere laid back to have a drinkie or two can be lovely if we can stay awake long enough. As an example, in previous years we have done so on the deck of Bahama Breeze whilst listening to the steel drum man. The Boardwalk can offer a similar experience, Disney Springs has a few places with this on offer and City Walk is a busier place to do this. In the absence of beach side bars, anywhere you know of that ticks these boxes would be interest. I thank you.

I am away now to cosset my gig ravaged body, take some drugs (Ibuprofen) before spending five minutes trying to make it look I’ve tidied up before Louise gets home.

Till the next time…..

The 100 Day Wait/Weight

As I come up with some guff each week to form one of these posts, I never know what the week ahead will bring. Usually I have a good idea that it will include lots of work related stuff I’d rather not be doing but other than that, it is a glorious meander through the maze of chance.

Last week work took me to Glasgow on Wednesday for a meeting. I don’t do very many of these things these days, so it was a nice change. Earlier in my “career” I used to be out and about a lot and what I remembered was how not being tied to my desk breaks up the week and makes it less of a slog.

The trip north is rarely a chore, as it can be when journeying south, as the M6 in that direction is a joy and is exactly how motorways should be. I travelled up most of the way with a colleague, one I have mentioned many times, who is a DVC owner and fellow Disney lover so the conversation usually drifts towards Florida and food making the journey even more enjoyable.

It was during one of those conversations that Steve asked me how my Dad was doing. He’s had a lot of health issues over recent years and has had a bit of a bobbins 2018 so far, to put it mildly. I was pleased to be telling Steve that did seem to be behind him, with some positive news recently from the docs and the resumption of his summer golfing routine.

That of course meant that I was to be proved wrong, and I was surprised and concerned to see an ambulance pull up next door on Friday evening. To cut the story short, he has a severe infection and is currently hooked up to antibiotics so strong that in future whenever he gets angry he will turn green and rip his shirt.

There was a concern it may be something more sinister, so thankfully, although he has felt rubbish, it should be sorted once the drugs work and hopefully he’ll be home before long. Serves me right for opening my big mouth I suppose.

In more trivial news, tomorrow sees us dancing. We move into double digits and the pace of this countdown seems somehow to be picking up. I know it isn’t but the nice summer weather, the end of the football season and a realisation that we only have three pay days until we go all add up to fooling me into thinking we’re nearly there.

That should serve as some sort of kick up the arse for me to shed a stone or three of my winter weight. By that I mean the last few decades of winters. I think I will try on all the T-shirts that I know are snug and rely on my inner scrooge to motivate me. I do not want to have to buy a whole new range of T-shirts that fit, so let me attempt to force myself into a healthier regime by writing it down here.

LOSE WEIGHT YOU FAT KNACKER

There we go, how could that possibly fail? It is essential my waistline reduces so that my fanny pack will fit around it.

Every time we go there is a pre-holiday diet to endure. The trick, as if I am any sort of expert on weight loss, is not to go too early. This is what I have been telling myself anyway. If I get down to a more acceptable weight too soon there’s always the risk that my lack of will power will see me drifting back towards my current Jabba like state. It’s like a long distance runner timing his kick for home. Go too soon as he will be picked off on the home straight, leave it too late and he will never catch the leaders.

Right now, I am doing some stretches and lunges at the start line and wondering how on earth I am going to make it past the first mile, never mind what position I may finish in. The race itself may be less tortuous than all these running allegories.

Enough, I have a load of stuff to do including a hospital visit.

Till the next time…..

 

 

 

Baldy Bean

Bean is bald. It isn’t something in the water in the Mkingdon household, which is a good thing for Louise and the girls. She has been dispatched for her first ever hair cut yesterday and returned looking like a different dog.

Here’s the before shot….

and the after….

She can be a little highly strung at times so we did warn the groomer beforehand. When Louise picked her up he couldn’t speak more highly of her. Apparently she just stood there wagging her tail at him for the whole experience. We’re clearly doing something wrong.

So after that landmark yesterday afternoon, last night Rebecca reported another to us. At just three months old, Freddie rolled over for the first time last night. Based on the rate at which he is growing, eating and developing I think he might be walking next week. By the time we go to WDW in late August he may be tall enough to ride Big Thunder Mountain.

Speaking of which, had I mentioned we are going to Florida on holiday? I may have. I have mentioned a bit of plan tinkering recently so it is time for a re-share of the current version of the plan. This may and will change still I think, mainly if we can’t the ADRs we want when we want them, but here is the current state of play.

29th August

Travel Day. A ridiculous wake up time to get to the airport far too early. Expensive breakfast, expensive duty free buying, nine hours in a metal tube with a ten month old, a long line at immigration, a big shop at the supermarket and dinner at Outback. That lovely feeling of returning home and the joyous prospect of two weeks stretching out before us.

30th August

Up in the early hours, Magic Kingdom of course. Freddie’s first view of the castle. Lunch at around 10am, some rides, a parade and then dinner at Whispering Canyon.

31st August

My birthday! Some rest in the morning as the second day hits us hard as usual. Mid afternoon eats at Beaches & Cream and then an evening around World Showcase with ROE to end my birthday as should be the law.

1st September

Some more rest in the morning as we will have been out till 10ish the night before and bodies will still be adjusting. Epcot again for a few Fastpasses and hopefully an ADR at Via Napoli.

2nd September

A proper official rest day. It’s Labor Day so parks are to be avoided. Pool, reading, relaxing….for about three hours in the morning then we are off to Citywalk for lunch at Toothsome. A wander around Citywalk and maybe some shopping at a mall to build up an appetite for dinner at Applebees.

3rd September

Enough rest now. A full on day at DHS, including an ADR at The Brown Derby.

4th September

A rest day of sorts, with brunch at Keke’s. We’ll find something to do in the afternoon, or go back to the pool trying to get ourselves hungry for our visit to Cowfish that evening.

5th September

Another full theme park day at DAK. Lunch at S’atuli Canteen and our usual dinner at Yak & Yeti. Depending on energy levels we will either stay for Rivers of Light or head for home and Jellyrolls may be an option for those without young children! If we don’t do it this night we’ll do it another for sure.

6th September

Resting again with maybe a wander around Celebration in the afternoon/early evening. An early dinner at Olive Garden and then the plan is MNSSHP.

7th September

Epcot today. More Fastpasses and doing as many rides as possible before a quick shower and change at the villa before heading off to Teak for some Doughnut Burger goodness.

8th September

Typhoon Lagoon today until the usual late afternoon storm sends us back to the villa. Dinner at The Cheesecake Factory.

9th September

Back to DHS today, mopping up stuff we’ve missed and repeating the good stuff. Disney Springs in the evening and a possible dinner at Edison.

10th September

A lazy morning, and a brunch at Hash House a Go Go. Shopping probably at a mall or back to Disney Springs. Should our bodies be able to take it, Bahama Breeze for dinner.

11th September

Last full day and of course that means Magic Kingdom, ending with parades, fireworks and tears.

12th September

Travel day. I will inevitably have to buy a suitcase. Brunch at Toojays before some last minute shopping/browsing before heading to the airport contemplating the horror of the return to normality and work.

13th September

I begin work on the next trip, convincing Louise it is the right thing to do.

Now, there’s a lot of rest in there, which is intentional. With Freddie in mind I need to recognise that the theme park commando approach may not be an option, and getting ready and out in the morning may be more challenging, if that is possible, having had Louise and two girls in tow all these years. If we feel like doing a bit more on some of those days we can, but best to plan sensibly I think.

This compromised approach does not apply to eating. That is still the usual he who dares wins tactic and we’ll be cheating death if we eat everywhere we plan to. Somewhere in that lot we want to try a “snack” at Voodoo Doughnuts too.

It still feels like there is work to do on the plan if I am honest but that’s OK. I’m pretty good at it and there’s time yet. It’s all part of the magic!

Till the next time…..


Discount Disney Tickets

A Tale Of Two Trees

Like my middle-aged paunch, Christmas has crept up on us without us really noticing. I have one full week left at work, which includes our team night out and our band night out, so that paunch will be getting a little paunchier by the end of it.

It was only five minutes ago that I was sneering at folks on social media for daring to mention the word and now mild panic is setting in that we’ve bought nothing and we’re only on our second Christmas tree.

Yes, you read that right. Having ordered a fake one from The White Company for the price of a small family car, as “it was perfect and would last us years” it arrived early last week and much time was spent decorating it. Twenty four hours later, Louise had declared that it was not satisfactory and it had to go. So it was stripped, boxed up and sent back and in its place now stands a seven-foot real one atop a three-foot pile of needles.

We’ve done well so far to only lose one decoration to the jaws of Bean, we can only hope it can go the distance to the big day. If it doesn’t then Bean may not either!

On Friday night, Louise and the girls went to an Anne Summers party hosted by one of Louise’s fellow nurses. Emily and Rebecca were quite worried about attending such an event with their mother, fearing it may scar them for life, and it is probably for the best that I don’t know what went on aside from the few Snapchats the girls posted. I took them there (and picked them up) which was quite a nice throwback to the “driving years” when my main role in life was to transport them around the planet.

It has been quite some time since it was the four of us in the car driving somewhere and it was in a strange way very nice. The night involved a fair amount of alcohol and with Rebecca not having drunk for a year and Emily being, let’s be frank, a huge lightweight when it comes to drinking, Saturday was pretty much a right off for both of them. Of course, I should also congratulate Tom for coping on his own with Freddie for the first time too whilst Rebecca was out.

At the moment, our Disney plans have assumed a position on the back burner of my priority cooker. This happens at times during a long countdown I’ve found. Beyond the occasional glance at flights, I haven’t given it much thought really. Well, I always give it thought, as in, it helps to get me through the two-hour commutes that I have been enduring over the last few weeks, but I haven’t really thought about it from a planning perspective.

I do need to find time to go over the plan in detail again, to firm up the day by day activities. I suspect my usual routine of doing the parks in the order we always do may need some attention as we have to factor in the day we will be at Mickey’s Not So Scary and the days that the running of that may impact on our potential planned visits to the Magic Kingdom. I also need to run the busy day guide against our plans. I don’t usually use these in any meaningful way, but it’s always wise to make sure there are no obvious clangers being dropped which can easily be avoided.

I have a suspicion that much of my well laid plan may be cast aside once we’re boots on the ground with young Freddie with us. Our activities will of course have to consider his needs and moods so there may be a bit of going with flows.

As some of you may have seen, I did a Facebook live on the Mkingdon Facebook page when Rebecca, Tom and Freddie popped round during last week. At such a young age he changes so much in the few days between visits and it’s just fascinating to see that happening. He’s had a cold recently which has been fun for Rebecca and Tom, but other than that he’s doing brilliantly, as are they.

He is photographed and videoed more than The Kardashians, which is only right, as he is more intelligent and newsworthy than all of them put together. I fear for the amount of coverage he will get during his first tour of Disney. He’ll never have another first time, so it may just be easier to do one long Facebook live for the whole two weeks!

I have big plans for the rest of the day and they are to rest my ageing tired body. With my taxi duties on Friday and another Mustard gig last night I have had two late nights and my middle-aged frame is protesting this morning. Louise is going out shopping for her outfit for her Christmas party so I intend to be best friends with the couch, watch some football and I have a song to learn for a Mustard rehearsal tomorrow. Next week’s blog may just be me moaning about how tired I am as this coming week, I have to work of course, but I have a rehearsal on Monday night, my team night out on Tuesday (huge Chinese meal and a few drinkies) and then our band Christmas night out on Friday (huge Indian meal and a few drinkies). I’m beginning to understand now quite how that middle-aged paunch happened.

Till the next time…..


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A Peak At Planning

Right, let’s get the stuff you aren’t so bothered about out-of-the-way. I wrote a chapter this week. I appreciate that is not in the same prolific league as James Patterson, but with everything going on in my daily life that is a step forward and hopefully a catalyst for more. What I really need if I’m honest, is a good chunk of time to re-read what I’ve written to date and then do the book plan. I know that I have everything in my head somewhere, I just need to formalise it into some sort of structure, decide on the outcome of the book (no spoilers here) and that should enable me to write more freely once I know where I’m going.

I feel better about the whole thing now that I’ve broken the ice again.

Sadly, that huge investment of time did not leave me much (any) time for the planning of WDW stuff. All my plans start in the same format and always have. As soon as I know our dates I create a simple template of those dates in Excel with blanks to fill in…

There are some givens that go in before anything else happens…like the travel days and the fact that we’ll be in Magic Kingdom on the first and last day.

Then, I make a list of all the eateries we want to do. I appreciate that this may seem strange to some, but the importance of the food on our Florida trips cannot be over estimated. The challenge with this list is fitting in all the places we have fallen in love with and want to do again, whilst also trying all the new places that I’ve heard good things about. For this trip, with Tom being a first timer it has more of a greatest hits vibe as we want to take him to all of our favourites….and it looked like this…

Next, I try to allocate one of those dining choices to a day on the plan, bearing in mind how I want the theme park days to flow. Over the years we seem to have established a routine as to how we tackle the parks. We of course start with Magic Kingdom as this is the law, we then do Epcot, Hollywood Studios and finally Animal Kingdom. I suspect that this being the order in which they opened was not an accident to my subliminal planner self.

Of course, tradition dictates that our first meal on arrival day is The Outback at Formosa Gardens if at all possible, so that goes in first and the rest follow like this….

For this trip, due to the touring party make up, it’s a WDW only affair so there are many more rest days than there may have been for an adults only trip. This means we can have two days in each park and if needed do extra visits on the afternoon of rest days. It makes for an easier planning experience. However, it doesn’t solve the issue you can see at the bottom of the plan. Where on earth do I put Sanaa? We may have to just eat more on some days! I do have a gap for dinner on our first day. I’m reluctant to put anything in there that we need an ADR for as there is no way to know how young Freddie will be adjusting to the time difference and long flight so we may need to be flexible. I know Rebecca would just be happy with some corn dog bites from Casey’s.

On that note, we are going to try something new on our last day in Magic Kingdom. I have it down as a snack day. We’re going to take the opportunity to eat all the stuff available in and around the parks as snacks and counter service, such as the stuff at Casey’s and a couple of things we’ve never had in all these years, a turkey leg and a dole whip. Funnel cake may also be on the agenda.

So this is where I’m at right now.The only other piece of the jigsaw tentatively in place is the intention to do MNSSHP on Wednesday the 4th of September. Having had glowing reports from all last week, it looks like we have no choice but to do it and much of the advice centred around not doing it too early after it starts and not to do it on a weekend.

What happens now? Well, over the coming weeks and months I shall tinker and mess about with the finer details. At some point I typically transfer it onto the Vacation Planner tool on The Dibb. I don’t use the forums over there any more but that tool is useful. It is helpful as somewhere to record all your booking references, ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations), flight details and that jazz.

What is bound to happen over the coming months is that I will come across some new dining experience that I desperately want to do and I shall wrestle with what to drop out of the plan….or of course there’s always the option of extending our stay! The latter won’t be a viable option this time due to the work/holiday restrictions of Louise and Tom so something will have to give should that be the case. I have already made the heart breaking decision to take Romano’s out of the plan and replace it with The Cheesecake Factory.

So there you go, this post turned unintentionally into a look at how I actually plan. I’m sure everyone has similar yet different methods. Let me know how you go about it so that I may shamelessly steal your great ideas.

Now, I must leave you as I’m off to a photo shoot this afternoon with Mustard. No, really, I am.

Till the next time….
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Scary Stuff

Well what do you know, it’s October. At this rate we’ll be heading to the airport in about ten minutes. Speaking of which my niece and her fiancée have done exactly that this morning as they head to WDW for their long-awaited holiday.

Have a great time Sarah and Tom!

However, not one moment of last week was spent planning due to the great inconvenience of having to work. Now, when I say there was no planning, that only means that I didn’t at any point sit down in front of a spreadsheet and the internet and formally plan stuff to do. Of course. subconscious planning happens at all times. For example, in the middle of some very tedious work related stuff, it popped into my head that Sanaa wasn’t currently on our plan. This is a grave issue. We love Sanaa, specifically the bread service, but as it stands there is simply no room for it unless we sacrifice something else.

To be honest my thinking is that for Tom’s first time and with a small child at the table, Whispering Canyon and 50’s Prime Time feel more relevant and suitable. There will other times for Sanaa.

Even though we will be flying out in August, as WDW tend to do, by the time we get there Halloween will be in full swing. We are very used to the parks transforming into an autumnal pumpkin fest towards the end of our previous August holidays. In the past we’ve been pretty much on our last day when this happens, but next year we’ll be just arriving. As such, I suspect MNSSHP will be happening. For anyone not in the WDW nutter club, that stands for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. We’ve never done this so it makes sense that we take the chance to do so.

mnsshp

Being in about three thousand WDW related groups on Facebook means that I am bound to get some mixed reviews of this event. For anyone who has done it, would you say it is worthwhile? My gut feel is yes for two main reasons.

  1. In all these years we never have.
  2. It will at least stop us having to leave the park early.

The tickets this year seem to start at around $74 each. That seems OK to be honest. In fact, in candy alone, Tom will break us even in the first hour.

If we go, then I don’t know if we’ll dress up. Again, any feedback on whether that is worth it or not would be welcome.

This time last week I said I had 20,000 words of the second book done. Well, this week I have a few less. Still that’s progress. I found about half an hour to open it and read some of it. This resulted in me editing out some words. So in this case I suppose less really is more. Having not looked at it for so long it was weird. It was like reading something that somebody else had written.

So not the most productive of weeks, outside of the stuff I am actually paid to do.

Louise is working again this weekend. It really isn’t fair. That means I have to do all the washing and tidying up. It really is rather inconsiderate of her. She knows I’m always a bit tired after gigging and Crumpsall lies in tatters this morning after Mustard blew it to pieces last night. She can make it up to me when she gets home later after eight days at work.

Right, I have to go, Liverpool are on TV shortly…erm, I mean I have lots of housework to do.

Till the next time…..


Standard home 300x250


Living La Villa Loca…..

I know that at times it is hard to tell me apart from rock Gods like Jon Bon Jovi. We look so alike that this is understandable. However, one major difference is how feel right now. Mustard were out gigging last night after a few weeks off for our summer holidays (that I didn’t have!).

Getting to bed at 2am after a full on night of hard rocking, fierce funking and more importantly lugging several tonnes of equipment in and out of the venue, my body hates me. I don’t imagine Mr Bon Jovi is sat in his dressing gown in front of Sunday Brunch nursing a non alcoholic hangover. Middle age is a bitch.

Louise has been working all weekend and by the time she gets to the end of Monday she will have worked nine days straight. That is, frankly, a bit shit so if you are having your wounds dressed, injections given or wounds packed anywhere near us, be thankful to the kind soul who turns up to do it. They will be over worked and under paid.

So, as promised, let’s turn to the embryonic plans for Florida 2018. Whilst writing the last few posts of the last trippie, I was multi-tasking very impressively by giving brain space to our next visit. We should of course be waiting a bit until Freddie is older and can do things like go to Jellyrolls with us, but all in good time, for now, we’ll be the idiots with the 11 month old on the plane.

Another strong reason not to wait is that our future son-in-law Tom has never been to WDW and as a lot of you will appreciate, taking a first timer is a joy and a pleasure. He is already, quite rightly, giddy with excitement. Of course, despite a good amount of internet research and us boring him to death about everything on offer, until a first timer goes there can be little appreciation of what will be encountered.

The rides and attractions are of course something he is looking forward to, but, like someone destined to become part of our family, he LOVES his food. Unlike me, Tom turns that love into muscle at the gym, so he’s a big lad but in a positive way…

His appetite is astounding and this is coming from me who could eat himself to death in one sitting. So the food on offer is a major focus for him. That’s handy of course as you know my planning starts with where we’ll be eating every day. He and Rebecca have already spent a good amount of time studying the menus of our planned eateries and in some cases pre-selecting his dining choices. I think he’s in for a good time.

But I get ahead of myself. I should give you an outline of the plan as it stands. Well, the first thing to say is that we shall not be making the mistake of not having enough time at WDW this time. With two first timers in tow, ALL we are doing is Disney. Recognising of course what a different trip this will be with a very young child in the party, there seemed very little point in attempting Universal at the hefty expense of an on site stay and other thrill ride heavy parks like Busch similarly made little sense.

Taking in to account the size and make up of our party, on-site accommodation didn’t really make sense. After our last visit, frankly we’d want to be staying at the Beach Club or similar and two weeks in multiple rooms just becomes very, very expensive. Along with that, for Rebecca, Tom and Freddie especially two weeks crammed into one room would be tough, so we (I) decided we’d be doing a villa.

Now, selecting a villa is a double-edged sword. It is lovely to be scouring the internet for that perfect place of course, as it means you know you are returning. The downside is that there is so much choice that a few hours in you get villa blindness. They all start to look the same. However, we (I) had very specific requirements. In previous visits compromises have been made, mainly due to budget, which haven’t really detracted from the trip, but niggled at me from time to time.

Our needs were –

Location – Suspecting we’ll be doing partial days in the parks with Freddie in tow, being close to WDW was a must. Knowing that every villa in Florida says they are fifteen minutes from Disney, I ignored those claims and used my local knowledge. The villa had to be in or around the Formosa Gardens area. Villas here are so close to Animal Kingdom you can smell the elephant dung.

Pool size – Rest days will be plentiful and vital so we wanted a lager than average pool and lanai. This meant going for a villa a bit larger than we actually needed. It should not be overlooked, and be south-facing to satisfy Louise’s sun hunger.

We needed two master suites.

Beyond those, I was just looking for villas that caught my eye. Things I look out for are poor quality photos and/or photos clearly taken a long time ago, suggesting the villa may not be quite as nice now as it once was.

It took a while, but eventually I found one that ticked all the boxes. I was delighted that it is situated on Emerald Island. We have never stayed there, but have driven past those dolphins many times whilst staying in the area.

The fact that this development is literally round the corner from our favourite arrival day dining tradition of The Outback is just the cherry on top of a nice cake.

The villa itself is called Simba’s Pride.

Click the picture to see details of the villa…..

A deposit is paid, which means we are definitely going. That feels good.

Flights won’t be booked for a while. I’ve never not booked the flights first, but with Freddie still being in Rebecca right now, there was no choice. Well, we could have waited to book the villa, but where’s the fun in that?

The main part of the planning now will be learning how to do WDW with a youngster under one. There’s a lot I don’t know about that.

The only other thing which has already been planned is the restaurant list. That includes some places you HAVE to take first timers to, such as Whispering Canyon and 50’s Prime Time.

The bad news is that between now and the 29th of August 2018, yes, I forgot to mention when we were going, you will be subjected to every tweak, development and booking. The timing of the trip is a mix of impatience and various work related challenges and commitments. We *could* have gone in a more off-peak time, but that would mean waiting longer. Flying out at the time should be OK as most folks limited to school holidays will be coming to the end of their trips and of course the US schools will already be back.

Irma has of course reminded us that this is very much hurricane season so we can only hope we continue our lucky streak in that regard.

So, enough for now. There will be time aplenty to blog about this in future for which I apologise.

Till the next time….


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Fitting In The Fountain

I’ve had more successful dieting weeks to be honest. It included two…no three take-aways and more biscuits than is conducive to weight loss. Clearly I wasn’t in the zone as it’s been a stressful week and we tend to eat our feelings in this family.

Speaking of over eating. You may not think it possible for us to get any more of it into our calorie laden plan. I thought that too, but Emily pointed out that since we shuffled our plans to give us one less day at Universal and one more at WDW we had a day in the plan without any food planned in. This was clearly a huge mistake and Emily’s idea was to squeeze in Beaches & Cream with us staying at the Beach Club. Looking at what we will have eaten by then squeezing in might be more literal than you may imagine.

Those of you familiar with Beaches & Cream will know that it isn’t very big and as expected, getting an ADR for a party of five this many days out was never likely and we were denied. However, I haven’t been obsessing about Florida holidays for fifteen years for nothing and quickly my database of knowledge and experience threw up an alternative.

In the Dolphin there is a similar looking establishment to Beaches & Cream. It doesn’t have the same level of theming or fun and games based around obscene amounts of ice cream in a sink, but I thought it may work.

fountain

A quick look at the menu confirmed my suspicions. Here are some of the highlights….

Fountain Signature Burger

Two 4oz. Angus Burgers, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Avocado-Bacon Aioli, Caramelized Onion, Tomato, American Cheese, Sesame Brioche Bun

Southern Pulled Pork

Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork, Western Carolina Barbeque Sauce, Apple-Fennel Coleslaw, Toasted Pullman Bun

Chicago Dog

Vienna All Beef Hot Dog, Cherry Tomato Relish, Kosher Pickle slices, Beer Mustard, Sport Peppers, Caramelized Onions, Hot Dog Potato Bun

Stawberri Kookies with House Vodka

Strawberry Patch and Cookies & Cream Ice Creams, Strawberry Topping & Chocolate Milk, topped with Whipped Cream & Oreo Crumbles with House Vodka (must be 21 or older)

Soft Serve Split 

Classic Banana Split made with Vanilla, Chocolate, and Swirl Soft Serve, topped with Pineapple, Chocolate and Strawberry Toppings, Whipped Cream, Peanuts, a Cherry and a Banana

PB&J Shake

Peanut Butter Ice Cream, Strawberry Topping with Whipped Cream & Reese’s Pieces.

So that’ll do nicely as an alternative. It is of course within walking distance of the Beach Club so on this extra Disney day, which we plan to spend some of it resting by the pool, we can wander over there for lunch. It doesn’t offer reservations so we’ll go early for that reason and one other very important one. On our holidays we have to plan our eating times carefully to ensure we will be hungry when the next meal reservation rolls around.

Bearing in mind that we will be in Celebration for our evening meal later that day and then moving on to Disney Springs and the culinary treats to be had there we will need to lunch at a time which may be bordering on brunch. These holidays don’t just fall together you know.

If you have any intention in reading about our trip when we get back, I would advise against reading it hungry. The amount of food pictures that are likely to feature may push into a calorie spree that I cannot be held responsible for. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Oh and if you happen to be staying at the Beach Club when we are, I apologise now for what will be the horrific calorie induced frame that I will be parading around the pool. I’ll be to wear a thong won’t I?

Till the next time……

Plan vs Food

Welcome to the new look Mkingdon blog. That’s if you’ve noticed that we’ve had a bit of a redesign. It’s been a long time since a change was made so I hope you like it.

I’m blogging a little early today as Louise is working. This is her first weekend at work since qualifying and so it makes sense to get it done whist she is out at work. It is also of course Father’s Day and I sit here in the after glow of a breakfast of enormous proportions. Now that the girls are old enough to operate cookers and stuff I get more than I used to in the heady days of cereal and toast.

Pardon my knees
Pardon my legs

I have a fine collection of presents which also include ludicrous calorie numbers, a T-shirt and an Xbox game.

My breakfast today represents the struggles of the week just gone too. In time that absolutely should not have been spent working, I have been wrestling with our WDW plan this week. Trying to predict Emily’s movements and meetings as she starts work is just one challenge I am trying to rise to, but the main one has been not having enough days. This has surprised me, as we are going for our longest trip ever at 18 nights. With that in mind I had thought we’d have endless rest days and time for the smelling of roses and all that jazz. To be honest, theme park wise, we’re doing OK. Even with Disney and Universal to fit in, we have the odd day without firm plans. The real tricky bit has been the eating plan.

Having been to WDW a lot, we have built up a back catalogue of favourite eateries that we have to do each time. We also like to fit in a new one or two as well, so this week I came to the conclusion that I simply don’t have enough days to eat all the stuff we want to. By around Thursday I had somehow slotted in all of the following –

Outback
Crystal Palace
Be Our Guest
Applebees
Rose and Crown
Market Street Cafe (Celebration)
Romanos Macaroni Grill
Hard Rock Cafe
Cowfish
Beaches and Cream
Miller’s Ale House
Whispering Canyon
Bahama Breeze
Olive Garden
Teak Neighborhood Grill

I still had a couple of places, such as the Cheesecake Factory that I couldn’t find a slot for unless we were to eat four meals a day. Then, yesterday, whilst chatting through the plan with Emily she was a very bad influence and threw up a couple of dining “must dos” that I had totally forgotten about. Whilst looking for availability on the Disney app for a reservation at O’hana (that we never did get), we were reminded that Sanaa had been a new one that we had wanted to try for a while and so with a bit of juggling we slotted that one in too, quite early in the trip.

Whilst searching for that reservation for Sanaa we also saw Trail’s End mentioned and remembering our previous visit there that quickly got added to the must do list. Don’t ask me how, but that’s now booked too!

I am pleased with all our plans but I have to say that I’m also a little worried about the amount we’re going to be eating. I’m sure we’ll manage. I’m not suggesting that we are food obsessed or that our touring plans start with where we will be eating, but Emily already knows what she is ordering at certain places. For example, at The Market Street Cafe she will be having –

Cheese Fries
With Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, topped with bacon and served with ranch dressing. 6.95

Banana Cream Pie 5.50

Milkshakes
Cookies & creams 4.50  add malt .50 

At Sanaa, I think it is fair to say that most of us will be going for this as an appetiser –

Indian-style Bread Service

Choice of Three Breads – Traditional Naan, Garlic-Ginger Naan, Spiced Naan, Onion Kucha, or Paneer Paratha. Choice of Three Accompaniments – Red Chile Sambal, Cucumber Raita, Coriander Chutney, Mango Chutney, Tomato-Date Jam, Garlic Pickle, Spicy Jalapeño-Lime Pickle, Roasted Red Bell Pepper Hummus, or Tamarind Chutney.

It goes without saying that when we go to Teak I will be having the Doughnut Burger. That has to happen. On a similar note, when we visit Cowfish at City Walk, there is only choice for me and that is the  –

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

Full-pound beef burger, creamy peanut butter, fried bananas, applewood bacon, brioche bun. Choice of side.

It’s ridiculous. I am still stuffed after my breakfast and now I am drooling over my keyboard! I’m putting weight on just writing about this stuff. I shall have to walk Oli for an extra few minutes. That will burn a few thousand calories, right?

I hope your Father’s Day is a good one should it be relevant to you and I shall go now to see mine. The effort of walking all the way next door may well burn a few hundred more calories!

Till the next time…..

Black Belt in Planning

It’s been a busy week. I don’t mean work. Work is always busy, and is very rarely worth writing about here. No, I have been a whirling dervish of holiday planning activity. Having had no trip to plan for many, many months now, I have returned to my specialist subject like the proverbial duck to pancake and soy sauce.

I had told myself to take my time, enjoy the prospect and luxury of having a trip to research and plan, but as is often the case at my time of life, no matter how much I tried to think of other things, my bolt is shot. I rest, in the after glow of bookings, with a red hot credit card and a smile on my face.

If you have been following my pre-trip report thread on the Dibb, then what I am about tell you will not be news. This has never stopped me sharing anything before so here we go.

This time last week we had little else but flights in the bag, and joy in our hearts, at the prospect of a return home. The next priority was to find somewhere to stay, and that was to be a villa. I looked at a lot. I won’t quantify that any further for fear my employers may read this and do some basic maths around the number of villas versus the hours in the week, but let’s say it was a good few.

I got quotes from a handful, most being non Dibb villas, which always has me worried that we will turn up to find either no villa or someone’s house, the inhabitants of it knowing nothing about the rental of a villa to an overweight bald bloke from Bolton. With that in mind, it came to me, as the search was almost coming to an end that I “knew” someone who had a villa that may be suitable. Tracy Seymour must have originally become aware of me (and vice versa)  via the Dibb, and we’ve been Facebook friends since I don’t know when. I’ve often looked at her villa for previous trips, but we’ve never needed one that large so have always ended up elsewhere.

Crucially Tracy’s villa, the Disney Palms villa, ticked all of our boxes, plus we’d have the security of knowing that there actually would be a villa there to stay in when we arrived. Tracy and her husband are fellow Old English Sheepdog owners too.

Disney Palms Villa

Our decision was quickly proved to be correct as when we received our receipt for our deposit, it included a goody bag of villa themed key rings, fridge magnets and post cards. A lovely touch, and one that was really appreciated.

With a villa found, we now needed a way to get to it from the airport, so the car hire work began. Prices seemed to vary wildly for what is pretty much the same thing. I ended up with Alamo Brits, who came out much cheaper than everywhere else for the seven seater van we needed. It should take six of us plus luggage to and from the airport, and have enough bum spaces when Emily joins us too. Louise has often requested to be added as an additional driver on previous trips, but I am usually too scared, tight to do so. Her total US driving experience is from Westlife, I mean Westridge, to the Publix at Berry Town Centre.

However the great price with Alamo also included up to three additional drivers, so that was a bonus. We paid £420 for the whole thing for 18 days, which I thought was a great price.

So within a few days of booking the flights, I was nearly done with all the major requirements. Now, firmly in the planning zone, I moved on to the Hard Rock Hotel night we needed for our Front of Line access. Everywhere seemed to be charging the same price to be honest, and I was almost resigned to leaving that to sort out sometime in the next 300+ days before we go. However, I then discovered that Travel Republic would let me book our three rooms for a deposit of £3. The balance will not be due until the middle of August next year, so you don’t need me to tell you what happened next.

Hard Rock…I said Rock.

I really am very, very good at this!

It will not surprise you to know that I have a rough plan of what we’ll be doing on most days, including how we will avoid the parks around Labor Day weekend. I also have a list of restaurants we must do, and all I will say about that, is that it is a good job we’re going for eighteen days. You want to see the list? Oh, OK then, so far it is…..

  • Market Street Cafe (Celebration)
  • Whispering Canyon
  • Mannys
  • Applebees
  • Olive Garden
  • Romanos
  • Bahama Breeze
  • Orlando Ale House
  • O’Hanas
  • Teak
  • Outback
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Be Our Guest

Rebecca and Tom also plan to attend the Universal Halloween Horror Nights if they are on when we are there. This year they started in early September so they should be OK. I think I might give that one a miss to be honest. If I want to be frightened I can go for a walk through some of the dodgy parts of Manchester on a dark night for free. Speaking of avoiding the parks over that busy long weekend, we (I) have planned to do some resting, visiting of Celebration (we MUST have the cheesy fries and banana cream pie at the Market Street Cafe), golfing, and heading over to Daytona to watch a baseball game again.

So aside from bits and bobs, we’re done. I know I could have spent months contemplating options, but you should know by now that I’m not wired like that. I feel better once stuff is done and dusted.

We do have park tickets to get, but we will leave that until much nearer the time, crucially when Emily is officially a Cast Member so we can see what discounts she may be able to get. Once we have those I shall have to get to grips with all this new FastPass+ stuff, and no doubt get up at 5am a few times to make sure we get on some headliners. I’m not going to stress too much about all that. We are there for nearly three weeks, and in that time, I’m sure we’ll be able to get on what we want to. If not, well it isn’t the end of the world. It’s not as if we haven’t ridden stuff before.

I’m off now to polish and admire my planning spread sheet, and prepare myself for the return of Homeland at 9pm.

Till the next time….

N N N N N Nineteen.

It has been a birthday week in the Williams household this week, with Emily turning nineteen. Of course, now she is over eighteen, all presents, gifts and cash must stop, as those are the rules. Well, that’s what we’re telling her anyway.

Whatever we did this week, we could not live up to what happened this time last year, with (even if I say so myself) a perfectly executed reveal of her 18th birthday present, a trip to WDW. This year was a much more low-key affair, especially as Rebecca is still overseas on holiday in Turkey. The day was spent by Emily with her best friend Meg, and her boyfriend Joe, doing what I believe the youth of today call “hanging out”. When I do that, it is usually due to the age of my underwear.

Present wise, she had to settle for cash, some perfume and this addition to her newly acquired laptop.

macbook snow white

Emily and Joe went out for a meal and Louise baked her a cheesecake, her favourite cake in the whole of the world, but of course this did not remove the requirement for the standard Disney birthday cake too.

disney cake

 

She was more excited by this than most nineteen year olds may have been, but then, I suppose you know that by now?

Rebecca’s having a lot of fun on holiday, with days at water parks, and a go at scuba diving.

rebecca scuba 1

rebecca scuba 2

rebecca and tom water park

She’s due back home on Thursday and we will of course be delighted and relieved for her to be so. She has had a really good time, however, she did say “It isn’t America.” Years of training are not forgotten in two weeks in Turkey it would seem.

It is some form of miracle that I have got so far into a blog post without whining about my lack of America. I will admit that there have been actual conversations this week between Louise and I about a trip next year. To be honest, we both sort of knew one would be on the cards if and when Emily is called over to WDW for her programme. I won’t go into the details of the lengthy five-minute discussion, but all I will say is that the words “well, we just have to go next year” came from Louise’s mouth.

The biggest shock to you from that conversation was that I was the one advising caution, and not leaping immediately onto the nearest flight website, to rape and pillage the closest credit card. I have to admit though, even the merest, slim, outside chance of a trip has a positive effect. I read an article this week entitled something like Ten Things You Can Do Right Now To Be Happier. As soon as I saw that number one wasn’t fly to Florida, my hopes were lowered, but I persevered through all the boring obvious stuff like sleep more, work less, move closer to work to shorten your commute and finally got to a point I definitely agreed with.

There was actual scientific proof, it said, that even planning a holiday can relieve stress and increase happiness. Even if you don’t actually take the trip, the benefits are still real. The very small chance of a return home has kicked off some very low-level butterflies of anticipation, which have been greatly missed. The thought of seeing places such as Vero Beach, the Boardwalk and Applebees again are proving to be a mild anti-depressant. Yes, I know I’m strange.

So now I need to go and sit on Kayak for a bit to help my mood. I actually have already found suitable flights, so I’m just going to stare at the website for a bit. Then, I might look at endless villas for a few hours, making a detailed spread sheet comparing features, attributes and costs in a complex pivot table to arrive at the best choice. If we actually really decide we are going, then I may not survive the excitement.

Time for more cheesecake!

Till the next time…..