ally1966's DIBB Photo Blogs

*Update 20th Feb

I should be ridiculously excited by now but must confess that at the moment I’m more nervous than anything else. It’s 12.30 and I can’t sleep!

Yesterday, I made a final trip to town to get my nails done and stock up on the essential holiday toiletries.

The last few days have flown by. In between working I seem to have done a ridiculous amount of washing and ironing - mainly for DD Nicola and DS Dan who are staying at home - we are taking mostly Summer clothes with us (I hope this isn’t wishful thinking!) which aren’t currently in use so these have gone straight from the wardrobe to the cases. Talking of which, the cases are finally packed, although I’m sure that they will be re-packed in the morning and there are still bound to be things that I’ve forgotten!

We’ve said our goodbyes to our 2 oldest sons, Stuart and Ian, and their families and delivered our beautiful little dog, Summer, to Ian’s house where she’s spending her holiday.

So this is it........6 years of planning and tomorrow night we’ll be at the Premier Inn waiting for our flight. It’s now nearly 1 a.m. and I really should try to get some sleep but there are a million and one things running through my mind. I’m sure going on holiday shouldn’t be this stressful!

Oh well, that’s it for the pre-trippie, I’m going to try to keep the trip report more or less live so I’ll be back soon.......

My Magic Holiday

This story starts back in December 2017 when, after nearly 2 hours in a virtual queue I managed to secure 4 tickets to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I knew exactly who would be accompanying me on this adventure - my DD Nicola 18, D-i-l Georgie and Georgie’s sister Emily. They are all, like me, massive HP fans. We’ve read the books, seen the films and visited the Studio Tour several times so we’ve all been desperate to see the play ever since we first heard that it was being produced.

I gave the girls their tickets for Christmas last year. It was a complete surprise to all of them. These were delivered, by owl (see pic) to the cupboard under the stairs at our house just in time for them coming round for Christmas Dinner! Each was complete with a personalised Hogwarts letter explaining the plan and a miniature character wand. So began months of anticipation, excitement and waiting........

When the day finally arrived we travelled down to London from the midlands by train. We bought the tickets in advance via Trainline using my railcard and paid just £23 each for off peak returns. We had to change trains once at Birmingham where we had a scary moment when a delayed train caused a last minute change of platform which had us chasing across the station with only 2 minutes to spare! Apart from this, the journey went smoothly and we arrived in Euston Station just 5 mins behind schedule at 12.45.

Our base for the next couple of days was to be the Premier Inn London Tower Bridge. DD and I have previously stayed in several different Premier Inns and find them ideal for a short break. We’d not used this one before and chose it purely on price - at £148 for 2 nights in a family room it was cheaper than any others in central London. Although officially a family room accommodates 2 adults and 2 children, we know from experience that once you’ve checked in online no one at the hotel queries the age of the guests!

We took the tube as far as Tower Hill underground station and then began our walk to the hotel, passing the Tower of London and crossing the Thames via Tower Bridge en route. Although the hotel is called Tower Bridge this was actually quite a walk and took about 20 minutes.

Our original intention for this afternoon had been to find something interesting to do for a couple of hours, then go back to the hotel and get changed before having afternoon tea. The afternoon tea was booked for 4pm. However by the time we reached our hotel it was nearly 2pm, we were all hungry and none of us fancied walking backwards and forwards from the hotel any more than necessary so we decided to get changed first and head straight for the afternoon tea in the hope that we could be seated early.

So once freshened up we set out again back towards the river. We had actually passed the venue - The Brasserie at The Tower Hotel - on our way to our hotel earlier so knew that it was a fare treck.

We took some obligatory tourist shots on Tower bridge as despite many previous visits to London we had never crossed it until today!

We reached our destination by 3pm and although we were an hour early for our reservation they were happy to seat us immediately.

We had booked this using a Groupon 2 for 1 deal and only paid £12.50 each so we weren’t sure what to expect but approached it with an open mind.

I have to say that it was bargain! We have all previously had much more expensive afternoon teas and were very favourably impressed with this one. I would happily recommend it to anyone.

The view from our table across the river was lovely (had the weather been warmer, they also have outside tables on the terrace). The staff were welcoming, friendly and obviously familiar with the Groupon offer so we had no issues using our vouchers.

Once seated we were presented with a tray of the cutest little tea bags from which to select our drinks. Although we loved the look of these, being typically awkward customers, myself, Nicola and Emily don’t actually drink tea so asked if we could have an alternative. This was no problem whatsoever and these were soon brought out - coffee for Emily and me and hot chocolate for Nic.

The sandwiches and cakes were beautifully presented on stands which were designed to look like the Tower Bridge. There was one stand between 2. The standard sandwich selection included ham & mustard, smoked salmon, egg and cress, cream cheese and dill and a little burger of chicken with avocado jam. These were all very tasty and fresh but for us the stand out filling was the chicken and avocado. Emily is a vegetarian so had asked for a variation to the menu, again they were happy to oblige and her meat fillings were substituted for veggie ones including cheese and pickle (I didn’t make a note of all the veggie fillings, but she was happy with it!)

The highlight of this meal was, for us, the cakes and desserts which consisted of a scone with jam and clotted cream, a white chocolate cheesecake with black currant jelly, a dark chocolate mousse cake, a lemon and chocolate tart, a small chocolate chip muffin and a panacotta with raspberry compote (my favourite!). None of us managed to finish these but we gave it a good shot! I’m not sure if we could’ve had the left overs boxed to go because we didn’t ask - we were all stuffed and as we were heading to the theatre wouldn’t have wanted to carry them round with us all night. We ate at a leisurely pace and had another drink whilst enjoying the views - wine for Nic, Emily and myself and orange juice for Georgie who isn’t currently drinking alcohol. We didn’t feel rushed at all and the staff were attentive and informative without being too intrusive. I really can’t praise the service or the food highly enough.

Appetites satisfied we settled our drink bill and left a decent tip before setting off again towards the underground and Covent Garden.

I love the Covent Garden area of London and could happily spend hours mooching around the shops and market and enjoying the entertainment but before any of this, we had a very important job to do.......

........when I said at the beginning of this report that I’d given the girls their HP tickets for Christmas, what I’d actually given them was a print out of the order confirmation. The real, physical tickets had to be collected in person from the box office. So our first port of call was the Palace Theatre. There was no queue, so we were glad that we’d decided to do this now rather than waiting till later this evening.

We soon had these safely in our possession........

.......the excitement was getting palpable!

We still had a couple of hours to kill before the performance so set off for a wander around the area just browsing and taking in the atmosphere.

The market stalls were beginning to pack away but we managed to make a few purchases. I bought a lovely little reversible pinafore dress for my 2 year old granddaughter, Elsie; Georgie and Ian’s daughter.

The Christmas decorations are beginning to appear and it’s all starting to look very festive.

The time soon passed and before long we were standing outside the Palace Theatre again waiting for the show.

The queue appeared long and snaked right round the side of the building but despite security and bag checks it moved quickly and we were soon inside the lobby.

I was very restrained with my my souvenir purchases and I’m proud to say only bought a programme! Emily however, bought quite a few things and Georgie got a cuddly Hedwig to take home for Elsie.

With cravings for HP merchandise satisfied we set off to locate our seats.

I had grown quite concerned about the location of these since booking. I knew when I set out to buy them that I would only be able to afford the cheaper seats but had had balcony seats and restricted view seats for many previous shows in other theatres before without issue so didn’t really think that it would be a problem.

I paid £20 per performance for tickets at the front of the Grand Circle. These were to the side of the auditorium and were described as restricted view but I thought that they were probably a better bet than the rear balcony seats which were £5 less because they were so much closer to the stage......

........then I started to read the seat reviews online! People were complaining that they couldn’t see half the stage, that they were the worst seats in the house and should never have been sold. But there was nothing I could do. They were booked and paid for and all but the most expensive seats, which were totally beyond budget, were now sold out anyway. So we were stuck with it. I just had to keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best!

.....this was the actual view from my seat (B4) and I’m not going to lie, the very right hand side of the stage couldn’t be seen and the railing that can be seen on the right of the photo was initially distracting.

However, we all agreed that we didn’t miss any of the special effects and that it didn’t spoil our enjoyment of the play.

It was possible to lean right forward to get a better view of the stage as there were no seats directly behind us. Even Nicola (who was the only one of us who’d not previously read the script) said that it didn’t stop her from following the story line.

Given a free choice, would I book these seats again? Probably not. But I don’t think that I really need have worried and some of the online reviews are unnecessarily harsh!

For those who have survived my waffling so far and are still with me, I’m sure that what you really want to know about is the I’m not going to tell you anything!

I really don’t want to give any Spoilers. Obviously, we were first time viewers ourselves and NOT knowing exactly what was going to happen or how certain effects and events were going to be portrayed really added to the excitement so I don’t want to ruin this for anyone else. Sorry, but if you’ve not seen it yet, when you do you’ll thank me (honest!) and those of you who have already been will know what I mean.

Suffice it to say that the performance exceeded all expectations. We were spellbound from beginning to end. The special effects are amazing and so cleverly done. The cast are very talented and the interaction between the characters is perfect. If I had to pick a favourite character it would probably be Scorpius Malfoy who whilst at times hilariously funny also managed to inspire my empathy.

It kept us on the edge of our seats throughout. The spectacular final scene ends with a cliff hanger that creates an unbelievable level of anticipation for part 2 - I would’ve happily watched it immediately, however we had to wait till the following night.

On leaving the theatre everyone was presented with one of these button I promise to do as instructed and #keep the secrets.

As it had been a long day and we were all feeling quite tired and achy it seemed like a good idea to get an Uber back to the hotel rather than battling the over crowded underground and facing another long walk. Despite having downloaded the app months ago, I had never used it before so I also wanted try it out before we go to Florida.

I’d checked the fare estimator earlier in the evening and it was quoting £8.97 - which seemed reasonable. However, due to the crowds, they were now using surge pricing and the estimate had risen to between £14 & £23. They were also quoting an expected wait time of 20 minutes. We still decided to go for it ........nearly half an hour later my phone rang and it was our Uber driver saying that he was stuck in one way traffic and couldn’t get near us. He asked me to cancel the booking and try again!

The second car turned up about 15 minutes later and seemed to take ages to drive to the hotel. I was watching the route on the app throughout the journey and he appeared to take several wrong turnings. Not being familiar with London roads or the Uber system I can’t be sure that he was doing anything wrong but we were charged the maximum £23.

To add insult to injury, when the charges came through, we’d also been billed £6.69 by the first driver who never even showed up! A quick phone call to Uber was sufficient to sort this out and the second charge was immediately refunded however, the whole experience was pretty negative and has left me worried about using them as our main form of transport for our holiday.

It was almost midnight by the time we were back at the Premier Inn and as it was a long time since our afternoon tea we were all hungry. We’d spotted a Papa John’s across the road from the hotel so nipped over and ordered 2 large pizzas to share - Ham & Pineapple for Nic & me, Margherita for Emily & Georgie. These were gorgeous and exactly what was needed. We sat in bed eating them and reliving the highlights of the day. All agreed that we’d had a fantastic but tiring day and within half an hour we were fast asleep.

I failed miserably to take any pictures of the pizzas but by the following morning this was all that was left...... I think it’s safe to say that they went down well.

As an early riser, I was awake again by 5am. Not wanting to disturb the others at this unearthly hour, I ran myself a long hot bath to soak my achy joints and started typing up my trip report. Emily was next up, at 7am, shortly followed by the others. It didn’t take long for everyone to get showered and dressed.

We hadn’t booked the hotel breakfast. I love a Premier Inn brekkie but seeing as we’d booked a family room, pre-booking breakfast online would’ve given us 2 free children’s meals. As it was fairly obvious that we were a party of 4 adults this felt like taking the p*** and would probably have raised awkward questions in the restaurant.

I was secretly delighted though when the others agreed that the best option was still to eat at the hotel.

As I’m sure most of you are aware, Premier Inn breakfasts are all-you-can-eat and served buffet style. Nic and I opted for the full buffet at £10.50 each, whilst Georgie and Emily went for the continental breakfast for £8.50. As always there was a plentiful range of hot items available as well as a good selection of cereals, pastries, fruit, yoghurts etc. We also all had fruit juice and coffee.

Hunger pangs satisfied and fully revived and refreshed we were raring and ready to go for day 2.
I decided to sacrifice style in favour of comfort today. Gone were yesterday’s heeled ankle boots to be replaced with these......

.......and my large MK tote bag was dumped in favour of this .......

A quick consultation with Google maps suggested that our hotel (despite it’s name!) was actually closer to London Bridge Station than Tower Bridge. So we set off in the opposite direction from yesterday for the much more manageable 12 minute walk to the tube.

We couldn’t really miss Tower Bridge Station as it is right under neath this. I’m probably showing my ignorance here, but I’d got no idea.

Today we were heading for Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.

We timed this perfectly as the gallery was just opening when we arrived and there was no queue whatsoever. There was already some pretty impressive pavement art outside which wet our appetites for the morning ahead ....

It had initially been Emily’s idea to come here. She is currently doing a degree in fine art and was particularly keen to see Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. The rest of us were happy to oblige as we all have an interest in art and it was several years since our last visit.

We spent a couple of hours wandering around viewing the exhibits and discussing our favourites.

.....before heading to the gift shop where I purchased a massive chocolate coin and a London Bus money box to take home for DD Chloe and a Peppa Pig Visits London book for DGD Elsie. Not really quite sure what relevance any of these have to the National Gallery, but it seemed like a good idea at the time!

Our next stop was to be Waterstones book shop on Piccadilly. We were all keen to visit here as it is the biggest one in the country. It is also home to the 5th View Cocktail bar and unbeknownst to the girls I had decided to treat us to cocktails there.

This was another Groupon deal. I’d paid £28 for 6 cocktails. For this you could choose any drinks up to a value of £9.95. Seeing as Georgie is no longer drinking alcohol we decided to maximise the value of the voucher by using it for 2 cocktails each for the rest of us and I then paid OOP for Georgie’s drinks.

I had a Peach Bellini and a Strawberry Lady. My favourite was the Bellini which was lovely and refreshing. The flavour of the gin in the other one was a little too strong for my taste.

Nicola also went for the Strawberry Lady but had a Martini for her second choice. She had wanted the Passion Fruit Martini but they were out of Passion Fruit so the waiter suggested making it with orange juice instead. She described this as, Different, but I don’t think that she’d bother again.

Emily had an Espresso Martini and a Strawberry Bellini whilst Georgie had a Virgin Bellini and followed it with a Mocca. These all went down well.

We didn’t eat here because we were all still quite full from breakfast and already had plans for a meal this evening.

The views from the cocktail bar weren’t as spectacular as I’d hoped. They are described as impressive views across the rooftops of the city. But that’s literally all that you can see.........rooftops! It wasn’t helped by the fact that it was a grey, wet miserable day. Still, it was a pleasant relaxing break and the drinks were very good value for London.

We then descended into the shop itself where the choice and variety is huge. Some serious money was spent here. Amongst other things, Georgie bought a lovely Christmas book for Elsie and I managed to sort out Christmas presents for Emily and her and Georgie’s Mum, Fiona.

Once we’d finished in Waterstones we headed to Regent Street and Hamley’s where we were pleasantly surprised to find that in keeping with the theme of our trip, they have a whole department dedicated to Harry Potter.

I resisted the temptation to buy anything here but took full advantage of the photo ops!

Next on the must do list was Nicola’s holy grail of shopping - Top Shop on Oxford Street. In the past she has been known to spend over 3 hours in here but had been warned that, on this occasion, she couldn’t expect Emily and Georgie to wait while she tried on the entire stock.

She still managed to buy a couple of jumpers and I bought her a dress and a pair of shoes to put away for Christmas.

We carried on up Oxford Street, popping in and out of various shops and making a few purchases. We finally reached Primark at Marble Arch where I had high hopes of finding reasonably priced Harry Potter and Disney clothing for our upcoming holiday but, although there was a staggering amount of choice, I didn’t manage to find anything that took my fancy. Whether I was all shopped out or just overwhelmed by the choice I’m not sure but I left empty handed.

We hopped back on the underground at Marble Arch. We had a reservation for dinner at 5pm at Maxwell’s in Covent Garden and it was time to start heading in that direction. This is our go to eatery when in London and we always try to ensure that we fit it in at least once. This is the first time that we’ve been since they moved to the new premises in King Street and we were hoping that it still lived up to our memories.

I had the Stack Burger (above) which is a huge double burger with bacon, cheddar cheese and mushrooms. The burger was juicy, very flavourful and perfectly cooked - it is also very messy to eat! It is served with coleslaw and fries, which I subbed for sweet potato fries.

Georgie and Nicola both had the New Yorker which was basically a smaller version of mine, containing one 6oz patty and minus the mushrooms. Yes, I confess now to being the greedy one!

Emily had the vegan burger (pictured above) with a side of Mac’n’Cheese. All meals were excellent as always.

We all had drinks with our dinner. A Pornstar Martini for Nic, Mango No 5 for Emily and me and a Diet Coke for Georgie.

Most of us were too full for dessert but Emily couldn’t resist the Nutella Glazed Donut which she pronounced delicious.

As we still had plenty of time before this evenings performance we sat and chatted over a second drink. Emily and Nicola had the same again. Georgie tried a sip of the Mango No 5 which she loved so the barman offered to make her an alcohol free version. I had a Maltesertini - this was gorgeous and very smooth - Maltesers blended with cream and vodka. What’s not to love?!!

This meal wasn’t the cheapest but I thought that for the quality of the food and the location it was still pretty good value. My share of the bill (for me and Nic) came to just over £70.

We continued to browse our way around the Covent Garden shops including Michael Kors where Nicola had her eye on a gorgeous red leather handbag. On enquiring about the price she was informed that it was £360, which she decided that she couldn’t justify, so we made a hasty retreat. I think that we’ve got too used to the USA prices!

We soon made our way back to the Palace Theatre again where we were excited to continue with the story of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

We were in the same seats as the previous night but swapped between ourselves just in case the end one had a more restricted view than the others. I thought that it was only fair to share any potential disadvantages and this time I was in the last seat (Georgie sat there last night) but it honestly didn’t make a great deal of difference.

Once we’d re-located our seats, the girls went off to the toilet and to get drinks. Whilst I was sitting there on my own a member of staff approached and asked if we’d been sitting there the previous evening. I replied that we had and he asked if any of us had lost a programme. I knew that mine was safe as I’d been reading it at the hotel but Emily had also bought one so I explained to him that I didn’t know. He told me that one had been found on our seats when they were cleaning the theatre and said that if it was ours we could collect it from him at any time before or after tonight’s show. When Emily returned she said that it probably was hers as she didn’t know where it was, so we went and claimed it.

This might only seem like a little thing but I thought that it was an example of really good customer service which is often sadly lacking these days. The programmes are only £5 and it would have been so much easier for them to throw it away or even re-sell it than to save it and go to the trouble of finding us the next night. I was really very impressed!

Once the second part began we were quickly absorbed in the world of Harry Potter again. The second part of the play was just as well put together as the first and although it is perhaps less visually spectacular I found it more emotionally moving with some very touching scenes between the main characters.

I really can’t praise this production enough and it proved a very fitting conclusion to the story of Harry Potter and his friends. There were a lot of the old familiar characters included but also enough new ones to add an interesting new dimension. I absolutely loved the whole thing and was quite sad that it was all over.

At this point I have to include our one and only photo of the play. I had done as I was told and switched off my phone (honestly) so stole this off Emily’s Facebook but I was quite glad to discover that one of us had been rebellious enough to take one!

We were in no mood to repeat the Uber catastrophe of the night before so walked to Leicester Square underground where we got the tube back to London Bridge. We were back at the Premier Inn not long after 11pm.

We spent a while discussing our impressions of Cursed Child and various other important issues that the play had raised - including the correct way to pronounce Voldemort, what type of hat the sorting hat should be and whether there is a physical description of Hermione Grainger in the books or whether we just expected her to look like Emma Watson!

Eventually we all fell asleep.

The following morning we had breakfast at the hotel again (similar selection to yesterday so no photos) before packing and setting off for Euston Station.

Our train left at 10.47 and we had a nightmare journey. The train was packed. It was standing room only and so hot! Georgie and I eventually got seats when other passengers got off at Milton Keynes. Poor Emily and Nicola had to stand all the way back to Tamworth where we changed trains. We were back in Burton for 12.50 and Ian (my son, Georgie’s husband) picked us up from the station.

So that’s it, all over 😢

......well not quite, while we were in London we realised that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens at the cinema on 16th November. So we’ve booked tickets and are planning a cheeky night out next week.

* Update 8th November

Having started this trip report in a fit of enthusiasm it's been somewhat neglected recently. Not because I'm not still excitedly planning but because it's mainly a tale of things that we've decided against rather than ones that we've booked!

I was intending to pre-book airport transfers, as we've always done in the past, however, after getting several online quotes we've decided that booking an Uber when we arrive will be significantly cheaper. I must confess to being slightly nervous about this! I like knowing that our transport will be ready and waiting for us after a long flight and despite having downloaded the Uber app months ago I've never actually used it even at home. However I've been reassured by fellow Dibbers that it's easy enough to get one from MCO, so hopefully we'll have no problems. According to the Uber fare estimator the journey should cost approx $24.

We also usually order Lynx bus passes before we go but have decided that Uber / Lyft make getting a taxi to WDW affordable and will save a lot of time so we're not bothering this time. Instead I've ordered the above I-Ride 14 day passes which I'm sure we'll still get plenty of use out of around I-Drive. They were from ATD and cost £12 each.

ADR day has come and gone and although I initially booked for BoG, Yak & Yeti and T-Rex I've now cancelled all but BoG. I really can't decide whether DH and DD will prefer to eat at Yak & Yeti or Rainforest Cafe on our AK day, there's no point in asking them as DH thinks it's ridiculous trying to decide where you want to eat 6 months in advance! As we have the Landry's Card we really don't need an ADR anyway so will just decide what we fancy on the day.

Similarly with T-Rex we can use the Landry's Card if we decide to go but I'm beginning to think that we would we better off arranging a late check out at the hotel and spending our final day on I-Drive rather than spending the whole day at Disney Springs.

I have ordered a second Landry's Card in DH's name having learned that it's possible to split the bill and use the discount on 2 cards for the same meal. Of course he also has a holiday birthday!

I toyed with the idea of making a 1 night throw away onsite booking in the hope that it would help us to secure fast passes for the most popular rides but this was quickly discounted after realising that there was little more chance of getting a FP for FoP at 60 days than there is at 30. As we don't have a car the free parking benefits aren't relevant to us and collecting the magic bands would be a pain.

I've also been considering upgrading our Discovery Cove day to the Elite package. I like the idea of having the photo package paid for in advance and think that DH would enjoy the cabana as he isn't doing the Dolphin swim. However, it's already an expensive day and as DH isn't swimming I'm sure he could take some photos for us. The jury's still out on this one - we'll probably wait and see how much money we have after Christmas.

Another addition that's still under consideration is a dessert party to view the fireworks at MK. We did this in 2012 and although we enjoyed it, when Disney doubled the price we agreed that it wasn't worth the extra and said we'd never do it again. However, DH has trouble with his knees and finds standing still for long periods a problem (strangely enough walking isn't an issue) so having somewhere to sit and view the fireworks would help immensely. Again, we'll make a final decision nearer the time.

So that's the story of what we're (probably) NOT doing! In the meantime the saving towards our holiday spending is going well. I've ordered a Revolut card, having used FairFX previously, because the exchange rate is better and have been changing $200 at a time every time the rate pokes its nose above $1.30. Oh, for the days when we got $2 to £1! We also have a sealed tin on the go where we're saving any spare money at the end of each week, this will be changed for $$ just before we go.

That's about it so far, not really anything to do with the holiday but this weekend I'm off to London for a few day with DD18, D-i-l and D-i-l's sister to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We've been desperately trying to get tickets for this right from when it first opened. I finally managed to book them in December last year and gave them to the girls for Christmas so we've been waiting for ages to see it. Hopefully might find some nice HP or Disney bits while we're there!

*Update 11th Nov

Well, we're back from London. We had an amazing time and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was everything that we could've hoped for. If anyone is interested in reading the details of our trip I've posted a mini trip report on here.

The holiday clothes shopping was a spectacular fail - I didn't find a single thing! However, while I was away, this vest top turned up which I'd ordered for myself online the previous week when the Disney store had 10% off and free p+p.

*Updated 29th November

Thanks to a kind Dibber who posted about ATD's Black Friday deal on combined Orlando Eye, Sea-Life & Madame Tussaud's tickets we have now added these to our itinerary. The deal was £16 per person for all 3 attractions and seeing as we've done none of them before it seemed too good to ignore. The plan (provisionally!) is to use these on our last day. So instead of heading for Disney Springs check in on the final morning we will leave the luggage at the hotel and spend the day on I-Drive before heading to the airport. I'm looking forward to this as we have a late flight home and usually feel like we waste the last day hanging around waiting to go.

Ive finally managed to make a start on the holiday clothes shopping. I recently found this Harry Potter t-shirt for Chloe in Matalan.

Then, yesterday, DD Nicola and I made a trip to Peterborough. She had to go there to take some exams as part of her training course for work, so, whilst she was busy I killed some time shopping (as you do!) and found this one in Primark.

... and, just so as not to leave Mickey out, this one! All of a sudden Chloe's holiday wardrobe is starting to come together nicely.

I also bought these in Primark to put away for Christmas stocking fillers.

I've been very busy on Groupon and have picked up vouchers for a round of mini golf as well as a few money off deals for meals in the I-Drive area.

Finally for now, again thanks to a heads up from a Dibber, I've ordered a $25 gift card for The Cheesecake Factory. Which on Black Friday came with vouchers for 2 free slices of cheesecake; to be used between 1/1/19 and 31/3/19 - so perfect timing for us. I can't wait to try this place as I've heard so much about it but never been and how can you go wrong with free cheesecake?

... having found flight prices that are too good to turn down we will be making our long anticipated return to Orlando in 2019. This will be our 1st visit since 2012 so not only is the excitement just about killing me but a lot of things have changed since our last trip. Not least of which is the make up of our party - both DD18 & DS20 now have full time jobs and can't get the time off work so for the first time ever there will only be 3 of us:-

The Cast:-

Me, Alison will be 52 by the time we go. Planner and fan of all things Disney and Harry Potter. Would happily holiday in Orlando every year if finances and DH allowed. This will be my 5th WDW trip.

DH, Mick will be 57. It is also his 5th WDW trip but he generally prefers UK seaside holidays. Not a fan of very hot weather, queuing or big rides. Strangely, he says he's actually looking forward to this holiday; just shows that persistence can pay off!

DD, Chloe aged 11. As the youngest of 5 this will be the 1st time that she's had a holiday with Mum & Dad all to herself. It will be her 3rd trip to Florida and she is looking forward to being able to do some BIG rides for the 1st time.

The History:-

Way back in the mists of time (1998 to be exact) we embarked on our, Once in a lifetime, trip to Florida. Our family consisted of Me, DH, DS Stuart aged 13, DS Ian aged 10 and baby DS Daniel aged 4 months (who arrived after the holiday was booked and had to be hastily added to the booking).

We stayed on site at All Star Sports with 14 day WDW tickets included in the package, which was booked without any other quotes for comparison and no negotiation on price, through a high street travel agent. It is probably still the most expensive holiday that we've ever had.

We were unbelievably naive and totally unplanned and unprepared (Pre-Dibb of course!). We had no concept of the size of WDW and no idea of what we wanted to see or do. I had a vague idea that we might get tickets for Universal and SeaWorld after we arrived and that someone would tell us how to get there. Needless to say this never happened and, with no hire car, we spent 2 weeks completely overwhelmed and trapped in the Disney bubble.

... so trip number 1 was hardly a success BUT it did leave me with the feeling that we still had so much more to see that we needed to go back one day and do it properly. DH agreed that when baby Dan was old enough to appreciate it we could go again.

This was to be a long wait! 7 years later in 2005 we were ready to try again -

We were accompanied by DS Ian now 17, DS Dan 7 and latest arrival DD Nicola 5. By this time Stuart had left home and had a baby of his own so didn't come with us.

Determined to learn the lessons from our last visit, I planned this trip to the last detail! We stayed at the Holiday Inn on I-Drive (now Palms Resort) with free shuttle buses to WDW, Universal and SeaWorld - and more theme park tickets than it was possible to use in a fortnight.

I'd even managed to book some special treats, thanks to some internet research and the discovery of The Dibb, including the much sort after Cinderella's Royal Table breakfast and the Pirate's Dinner Adventure.

I felt that this holiday was a great success, the kids loved every moment and I definitely knew that I wanted to do it again. DH, however, felt that it had been organised like a military campaign and he needed a holiday to get over it!

So no-one was more (pleasantly) surprised than me when only 3 years later he agreed to go back...

... after a particularly traumatic year, during which my Dad had passed away, we'd moved house and we'd unexpectedly become parents again by adopting our niece Chloe, we were all desperately in need of a break. Whilst browsing for a cheap week's all inclusive in Europe I stumbled on an unbelievable deal to Florida. 2 weeks at the Quality Inn International (now Rosen Inn) with flights for 2 adults, 2 children and 1 infant - £1200 !

Well, it would have been rude not to - only problem was we booked just 3 weeks before travelling. DS Ian wasn't with us for this visit as he couldn't get time off work at such short notice so we were still a party of 5.

As it was a last minute cheapy we only booked WDW tickets and used the Lynx / I-Ride for transport. This was the most laid back holiday yet as there was no time for stress or panic and no time for planning. We just went with the flow each day and even managed some late starts.

But of course we had once again taken a baby to WDW so knew that we would HAVE to return when she was old enough to remember!

We decided that the time was right in 2012 when DD Chloe was 5, DD Nicola 12 and DS Dan 14.

By now we felt like pro's! I quickly found reasonably priced flights online with Monarch and we booked the Rosen Inn International again as it had proved a great base last time. We ordered WDW and Universal tickets (I had to see the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and got our Lynx bus passes in advance. I consulted the busy day guides and set about happily planning the extras - such as the dessert party and a CRT breakfast for DD Chloe (Well, Nicola had done it at the same age... )

It really was like coming home and we all relaxed into the holiday straight away. Even DH started talking about when we come back rather than if.

... and that brings us pretty much up to date. We came home knowing that we would return one day but for the last 6 years life has got in the way! We've enjoyed lots of other holidays including DS Ian's 2015 wedding in New York, a whole family (13 of us) all inclusive to Fuerteventura in 2013 and various other European and UK, Seaside and City breaks. But the itch to return to Florida has never gone away.

So when I recently found sub £250 return flights with Virgin on Skyscanner for next February I knew that it was a sign that the time had come.

The Planning:-

It seems like I have been formulating a plan for this this trip in my mind forever so it feels almost surreal that we've actually booked, but booked we have ... and the price that finally tempted me to press that button? ... £633.78 return for 3 people!

Now as this is with Virgin light it doesn't include checked baggage or seat selection so we have added 1 case. DH is adamant that we will manage with 1 case + hand luggage between us if we pack light. I'm not so sure but I'll do a trial run and even if we have to add another case it won't break the bank. As far as seats are concerned, we're prepared to take the gamble at check-in.

We will be flying with Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick Airport (VS27) on 21st February and return on 7th March.

This will be the first time since 2005 that we've flown with Virgin and I must admit that I'm looking forward to the free drinks service! We have never visited Florida in February / March before and are prepared for it to be cooler than previous visits. This will actually suit DH better - our last trip was in September which he found much too hot - but it may have an impact on our plans to pack light; we'll see!

With flights secured, thoughts turned to accommodation. This was a no brainer. Having stayed at the Rosen Inn International the last twice, it was an automatic choice for this trip. It is the perfect base for us as non drivers because it is in the centre of I-Drive close to lots of restaurants and has both Lynx and I-Ride stops right outside. We also found it to be clean with reasonably spacious rooms and extremely comfortable beds - essential after a long day in the parks!

This was booked through Love Holidays at a total cost of £728 for 14 nights.

Next we needed to decide how we would be spending our precious holiday time. We have never been to Discovery Cove before as we have always had young children with us and been more Disney focused so this was top of my list of priorities for this visit. Both myself and DD are very keen to experience a swim with the dolphins whilst DH isn't remotely interested. He is happy enough to go but doesn't like swimming, I'm sure though that he'll take full advantage of the all inclusive food and drink and will enjoy the relaxing day away from the other theme parks.

We have booked 2 Ultimate Dolphin Swim and 1 Ultimate non-swim tickets through Attraction Tickets Direct. These cost a total of £539 but as they include Busch Gardens (where we've never been) and SeaWorld (where we haven't been since 2005) they will cover 3 days entertainment.

We've booked this for the Saturday after we arrive because (according to Touring Plans busy day guide) this will be a busy day in most of the other parks. It is also nice and early in the holiday so if it should get cancelled due to the weather we've got plenty of time to re-arrange.

As a Harry Potter fan, Universal / IoA is another must do. When we were there in 2012 we saw Hogwarts & Hogsmeade and rode Forbidden Journey. I was blown away by the attention to detail and I'm really looking forward to seeing how they've interpreted Diagon Alley and to experiencing Escape from Gringotts. I also can't wait to ride the Hogwarts Express so we had to have park to park tickets.

We aren't interested in Volcano Bay (or water parks in general) so we settled for 5 day 2 park hoppers from Orlando Attractions at a cost of £232 each. If previous experience is anything to go by I doubt that we will use the full 5 days but the price difference between them and the 3 day tickets was negligible so we opted for the 5 day ones for the sake of flexibility.

This brings us to the elephant in the room ... Disney ... I can't imagine going on holiday to Orlando without going to the Disney parks. DH, on the other hand believes that after 4 trips we've done Disney to death. We have always had 14 day ultimate tickets on previous trips so have had the flexibility to come and go as we please but these obviously weren't going to be easy to justify this time.

During our last trip they were in the middle of the construction of the new Fantasy Land so we had initially compromised on just a couple of Disney days to see the new stuff. However, since this holiday has been postponed for so long, they now have new stuff in all 4 parks. It was therefore relatively easy to get him to agree to 4 days - especially when DD admitted that she can't actually remember anything about her last visit, when she was 5.

We could have got 4 day hoppers for £351 each but this would have meant 4 long days in the parks and DH hates doing open to close. In comparison, a 6 day base ticket is only £310. As with Universal we aren't interested in the water parks so opting for these means we will still get 1 day in each park but if we decide to head back early we'll still have a couple of days in hand to go back and see the fireworks later in the holiday.

Potentially we now have tickets booked for all 14 days of the holiday (6 WDW, 5 Universal & IoA, 1 each Discovery Cove, Busch & SeaWorld). It might appear that I am going to fall foul of the over planning rule again (as per 2005) but in reality we are unlikely to spend more than 2 or 3 days at Universal and if we return to WDW to see the fireworks these will be late starts so there should be plenty of opportunity for relaxation and shopping. Depending on how DD is coping with the big rides we might even drop Busch Gardens.

When we flew to New York in 2015 for DS's wedding we stayed the night before the flight at the Premier Inn at the airport. It made for a much less stressful start to the holiday so, as we will have to drive down from Derby to Gatwick we have decided to do this again.

Booking direct with Premier Inn we secured a family room at the North Terminal hotel for £43. We have added the meal deal for a further £53 - this provides us with an evening meal and a buffet breakfast each (kids eat free) and I do love a Premier Inn breakfast!

We decided against their Park, Eat, Fly deal because DH refuses to leave his precious car keys with anyone while we're away. The Premier Inn itself has no parking onsite and the short stay car park at the airport (which they recommend) costs £25 per night. Instead, we've opted to leave the car at the airport's long stay car park for the extra night. This is costing £96 for 16 nights. The plan is to arrive at the airport just before 5pm on the 20th in time for Twilight check in, use the free shuttle from the car park to the terminal then, having dropped any checked luggage, walk to the hotel which is only about 3 mins away (according to Google maps).

With over £3800 already committed to this holiday in flights, hotels, tickets etc. It has suddenly occurred to me that we no longer have any travel insurance! We used to have it through the bank but cancelled it earlier this year as we decided it wasn't cost effective so I'd best go and sort that. Also need to renew DD's passport before I can do ESTAs - maybe I'm not as well organised as I thought.

I'll be back...

*Update 28th August

Insurance sorted! Managed to secure a worldwide family policy with Leisure Guard for £38 - didn't think that this was a bad price.

On a more interesting note, the postman's been busy round here! We've had the all important deliveries above from ATD and Orlando Attractions. WDW tickets are on a Will Call voucher, so will have to be exchanged for real tickets or magic bands on arrival but I've succeeded in linking them to MDE using the confirmation number. So we're all set to start booking ADRs and fastpasses.

DD's new passport has also been delivered. Less than a week turnaround time which I was very impressed with because it's never the most straight forward renewal as we have to submit the court order to prove that we have parental responsibility. There were a few heart stopping moments however when the supporting documents weren't returned until several days later, we've always received them before the passport before, so I was beginning to think that they'd got lost. I always carry the court order when we're travelling since I once got a stern telling off at immigration for not having any proof that we had permission to remove her from the country (Madame, do you realise how many children are trafficked internationally every year?). Not an experience that I wish to repeat, I really thought we were going to be denied entry... anyway, I'm waffling... they eventually turned up so all's well.

Our Estas are done and approved (massive relief - I hate doing those things!)

A lot of time has been spent this week drooling over food reports and trying to decide where we're going to eat. This might be wishful thinking. DH and DD are not adventurous eaters - which is probably just as well as I'm sure anyone who's witnessed the extent of my culinary abilities would agree! So eating out anywhere will be an improvement. But, with McDonalds, Denny's and Golden Corral right on our hotel's doorstep, they will, unfortunately, be quite happy if we never venture any further afield in search of food!

Despite this, I'm planning an ADR at Be Our Guest - just so we get to see inside the Beast's castle. I've also ordered a Landry's card and hope to use the welcome bonus at either Rain Forrest Cafe or Yak and Yeti on our Animal Kingdom day. I'll also get a birthday bonus as my birthday has conveniently been relocated to February for the purposes of this trip! I want to use this at T Rex on our last day. I think that the experience will appeal to DD and it'll be something to look forward to after we've done the Disney Springs check in for our return flights. These are the only meals that I'll be booking but I've got plenty of other ideas - so if anyone's interested in what we eat and where, you'll have to wait for the trip report to see where we ended up!

A trip to Primark this week resulted in the purchase of the above top for DD and this note book for all my planning and trip diary. I'm sure that this shop will be raided for Disney goodies on a regular basis before we go.

I've saved what in my opinion is the best news for last! On reflection, we decided that travelling with one suitcase between us might be taking packing light to impossible extremes, especially with the unpredictable nature of the weather in February. So on Sunday I phoned Virgin Atlantic to enquire about adding a second case to our booking. Imagine my delight when I was informed that we weren't booked in Virgin Light as I believed but in Virgin Classic. This means that we already have 1 checked case per passenger included - so plenty of room for all those Florida bargains & souvenirs - and I've been able to book our seats in advance so we now have the reassurance of knowing that we'll all be seated together.

I was so shocked that I had to get the poor operator to check this several times; in the end she offered to do the seat selection over the phone to prove that she was correct. I've since checked this on the Virgin app and our seat numbers are indeed now showing!

Pre-Trippie continued here:-

Today was our final day in NYC. It didn't feel as though we were leaving, even when the cases were packed and we'd checked out of the hotel.

Our flight wasn't due to leave JFK until 10pm so we stowed the bags in the hotel luggage room and set off to enjoy our last day in the city.

We headed into Central Park

We walked through Strawberry Fields and passed the Imagine memorial to John Lennon. There was a guy here singing Beatles songs, he was actually quite good so we stopped and listened for a while.

We then continued across the park towards our intended destination - The American Museum of Natural History. Chloe was absolutely fascinated with this place ever since learning that it was the museum from Night At The Museum. I'm not sure whether she thought the exhibits would really come to life, but it was one of the few places that she had asked to visit so we had to fit it in.

We were slightly disappointed to learn that the T-Rex from the film has been removed but apparently it wasn't real anyway. We did see these in the lobby whilst queueing to buy tickets.

There is a suggested ticket price here of $22 for adults and $12.50 for under 12s which they ask if you're happy to pay.
I'm not sure what would happen if you said no! Or maybe they're just hoping that you'll offer more, but we just paid the suggested amount.

The first room that we entered was full of animal exhibits.

Chloe thought this was King Kong!

We went from there into the African Peoples Exhibition. Nicola questioned whether we would be allowed into this room as we weren't African - I do sometimes wonder about her!

We wandered on through displays dedicated to Asian People's, Aztecs, Incas and many more.

It was all very interesting but we quickly realised that the place is vast and we could easily spend the entire day going round it all.

As time was limited, we decided to head upstairs to the main event - the dinosaurs!

Mission accomplished, we decided to call it a day in here but not before visiting the gift shop where Nic & Chloe each bought a Woolly Mammoth cuddly toy and I bought some dinosaur t-shirts to take back as presents for the grandkids.

We had a table reserved at The Boathouse for lunch as Ian and Georgie wanted a final look at their wedding venue.

However, Emily and Fiona had been wanting to eat at Bubba Gumps in Times Square all week and not got round to it. So we went our separate ways, agreeing to meet back at the hotel for 5.30pm to collect the luggage.

Our table was booked for 2.30pm but it was only about 1.30 when we arrived. As we didn't want to waste any time today we asked if it was possible to be seated any earlier. They promised to see what they could do and gave us a pager.

We went to the outside bar and ordered drinks while we waited but we'd only been there for about 10 minutes when the buzzer went off.

Once again we were seated at a great table with lovely views over the lake.

Ian, Georgie and I all had the New York Strip - which was amazing.

Daniel had the Duo of Boathouse Burgers.

and the girls both had the hotdog off the children's menu.

Ian and Georgie had the chocolate cake for dessert.

I had a caramel bread and butter pudding, this was amazing!

Dan and Nic had a trio of ice-cream. This got a mixed response, neither of them were keen on the mint choc chip (said it tasted like toothpaste!) but they enjoyed the other flavours.

Chloe had the children's chocolate ice cream.

The lunch menu here is slightly different from the dinner menu. The kids preferred the choices today from the ones that were available on the wedding day. It was significantly cheaper. I paid $211 including drinks and tip.

After dinner Ian took me to see the boating lake (from Stuart Little) and the Alice in Wonderland statue, both of which I'd failed to find by myself.

We also saw the statue of Hans Christian Anderson.

We then toyed with the idea of visiting the zoo but decided that there wasn't enough time left to do it justice. We had to bribe Chloe with the promise of a trip to Twycross on our return home and set off to buy some last minute gifts from the souvenir shops instead.

Shopping completed, we headed back to the hotel for the last time. We spotted Emily and Fiona in Langan's, the Irish bar next door and called in to have a final drink with them. We all agreed that we'd had a fantastic holiday and made many memories that will last a lifetime.

Sadly we collected our luggage and the concierge booked us 2 cabs for the return journey to the airport. We were picked up at 6pm and the journey back took about an hour and cost $70 per vehicle including tolls, taxes and gratuity.

We browsed around the airport shops for a while and I bought the kids a McDonalds as none of them had really enjoyed the food on the plane flying out.

We took off about half an hour late and the flight passed very slowly! Chloe slept for most of it.

I was disappointed to find that the film selection was exactly the same as flying out so spent most of the flight reading or listening to music.

The meal choices were beef, chicken or pasta. I had the beef which was OK.

The children's meal was chicken nuggets and mash which looked very unappetising and Chloe didn't eat any of it.

About an hour before landing we were served a breakfast which consisted of a pot of raspberry yoghurt, an oat and honey cereal bar and a glass of orange juice. This was nothing special and most of it went in the bin.

We made up some time en route and landed only 10 minutes behind schedule. However this coupled with a long wait at passport control was enough to ensure that we missed our train. So I am writing this from the train and after a very long day travelling, should finally be home in about 15 minutes.

We have had an unbelievably good time in New York and the wedding was amazing. There isn't much that I would change about it at all, except maybe a little more time to get everything done.

We are all totally exhausted and will probably need a holiday to recover from the holiday - I'm very glad that I've got the rest of the week off work.

Thanks for reading and I hope that you've enjoyed our adventures as much we did!

As today was our last full day and the itinerary had pretty much gone out of the window days ago I knew that there was not going to be enough time to see and do everything that we'd wanted to. I did still want to explore some of the other boroughs though so me and the kids decided to get a cab to the Highline and then just walk back in the direction of the hotel and see how far we got before our feet gave up!

We met the others for breakfast. Fiona and Emily decided to join us but Ian and Georgie wanted to do some shopping and Georgie also wanted to find Carrie Bradshaw's house from Sex in the City, so they went off on their own.

We were dropped off on W14th right by one of the entrances to the Highline.

This is a really lovely walk, away from the hustle and bustle but with some lovely views over the city.

We saw some huge and iconic paintings on the buildings.

and some quirky art installations.

We had a pleasant stroll and it was nice to see a completely different part of New York.

When we'd had enough, we came down from the Highline and stopped for drinks and snacks before heading to the Chelsea Markets.

We loved this place and felt that it had quite a Camden vibe with all the stalls and hand crafted goods.

The kids had an ice cream each.

We enjoyed browsing around all the different food stalls but avoided the temptation to try anything because we had already booked to go out for a meal later and were still quite full from breakfast.

We all agreed that if we'd realised what was on offer here, we wouldn't have eaten at the hotel!

Fiona did however manage to find a "good cup of tea" - something that she'd been searching for all week!

Next we set off to walk through West Village to Greenwich Village. This is a lovely area with tree lined cobbled streets and has a completely different atmosphere from anything else that we've experience so far in New York - for some reason I don't seem to have taken many pics here.

Walking through Greenwich Village we spotted the Jekyll and Hyde Club. Someone had recommended trying this place to Emily a few days ago. The one in Times Square is currently closed so she was delighted to find another.

We were all in need of the restrooms by now so we decided to call in for a drink.

There were some spooky exhibits - some of which came to life when we were least expecting it!

The restrooms are actually hidden behind the books that line the corridor - not easy to find!

We spent quite a while in here just chilling and chatting to the bar tender who told us that we were just around the corner from the Slaughtered Lamb which featured in American Werewolf.

We didn't go in here but Emily had to have a photo as she is a massive Horror fan.

By now, we were all starting to feel hungry so we set off to look for a slice of authentic New York pizza to keep us going until dinner.

These things are huge! And tremendous value at $2.95 per slice.

After lunch, we all decided that we needed to take a break from the walking. Emily and Fiona wanted to head back to the hotel but the kids and I decided to carry on exploring for a bit.

We hailed a cab and drove through China Town and over the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn.

China Town was one of the areas that I'd wanted to visit and now wouldn't have time for. Judging on what we saw from the cab, we're not missing much! It looked very chaotic and quite run down.

Once we were on the other side of the river, we got dropped off near DUMBO. I had read about this area on the Internet and was expecting to find arty places and galleries to browse round - we couldn't find any!

I don't know if we were looking in the wrong place but I did ask a couple of people and they didn't seem to know what I was talking about.

This was the only art that we found - it is actually in the window of a Spa!

We headed down towards the river and spent a pleasant hour or so in the sun wandering around Brooklyn Bridge Park and the area between the 2 bridges.

Chloe and I had a ride on Jane's Carrousel.

Then it was time to return to the hotel and get ready for our planned evening out.

Tonight we were going to the Rockefeller Centre as we had tickets for the top of the rock. The idea was to time it for around sunset so that we got the views in both daylight and lit up at night.

Unfortunately, as it was quite cloudy, the sunset wasn't as spectacular as we'd hoped. But it was nice to be able to get the Empire State in some of the pics.

Personally, of the 2, I preferred the Empire State Building to the Rockefeller.

We did buy our souvenir photo package from here. At $40 for 2 prints and an Email link to the rest, I felt they were quite pricey. But they were nice pics of all of us and a fun reminder of our last evening.

We had booked a table at Bistro Milano for our final meal. We had all really enjoyed it here the other night. We were greeted on arrival by Ben with a complimentary bottle Muscato to toast the bride and groom.

I didn't get many food pics this time as most of the group had the same meal as on our previous visit.

I decided to try a chicken dish for a change (sorry I can't remember what it was called!). When they brought it out I thought that they had made a mistake because it looked like a pizza but it was actually chicken that had been beaten out really flat, cooked in breadcrumbs and topped with mozzarella. It was lovely and much larger than I'd expected.

It was served with a side salad and I'd also ordered a side of roast potatoes - I really didn't need these and ended up sharing them with Emily. The salad wasn't even touched.

Chloe, who hadnt eaten with us here last time, had the bolognaise. They don't have a children's menu but did her a half portion.

Nicola, who was also on her first visit, tried the lasagne that I'd had last time and Dan stuck with his usual pizza.

My share of the bill, including drinks and tip, was $185.

Chloe had fallen asleep at the table as soon as she'd finished eating so when we asked for the check. Nicola, who was sitting next to her, leant over to wake her up. As she did so, the leg of her chair cracked and gave way and she ended up in a heap on the floor!

The staff rushed to her assistance and were very apologetic. She wasn't hurt and just sat on the floor laughing. Like Ian says, if it had happened to an American they'd probably have sued but we found it hilarious.

As we were leaving the restaurant the heavens opened. We can't really complain as it's the first rain that we've seen all week but we got drenched!

We did try to find shelter but it was too late to make much difference. So, in the end we just ran for it.

Another enjoyable but exhausting day. Tomorrow morning we'll be packing😢

Today was the closest thing to a lie in that we'd managed since arriving in NYC. Although I'd been awake since 4.30 updating the trippie, the kids didn't surface till 8.30am. We decided to skip going down for breakfast. Chloe had a bowl of the cereal that I'd brought from home and by the time we were all showered and ready to go it was turned 10am.

Ian called in to see what we had planned for today and as everyone still wanted to see Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library, which we hadn't got round to doing on Day 2, we decided to stick together this morning.

We set of towards 5th Ave and were soon standing outside the library.

This time, we ventured inside and were amazed at the scale and grandeur of the building.

Nicola trying to look intellectual!

This was the only reading room not packed with people trying to work. I don't know how they concentrate with so much going on around them - it certainly isn't your usual Sssshhh type library!

We visited the gift shop where I bought a few bits to take back home and Chloe bought the Library Lion book - she was most impressed when the cashier stamped her book with the Library's lion logo.

We then headed down library walk towards Grand Central Station, stopping to read some of the literary quotes set into the pavement on the way.

We caught a glimpse of the Chrysler building in the distance.

And soon arrived at Grand Central Station.

This is another incredibly impressive building.

We quickly reached the Oyster Bar and had to try the whispering walls. This was truly amazing - we could hear each other clearly, even over all the hustle and bustle of the station.

The kids and I were beginning to feel hungry by now as we'd skipped breakfast. So we parted company with the others, who were going to the Empire State which we'd already done.

We stopped off at Juniors in the food concourse for some lunch. I'd read on the internet about the amazing cheesecake here and was determined to try it!

The meals here are colossal!

I had Brisket Melt which was packed with meat and very tasty.

Dan had a 10oz cheese burger with onion rings.

Nicola went for the Tuna melt

and Chloe had the children's chicken strips and fries. This was yet another place where the kids meals were more than big enough for an adult!

We were completely beaten by this meal, despite having no breakfast. Both Nic and Chloe had half of theirs boxed to go and none of us had any room for the famous cheesecake!

We chose 3 slices to take out and settled the bill - which with drinks came to $98. Our waitress was lovely so we left her a 20% tip.

The plan for the afternoon was to head up to Central Park and have a proper look around. Although we had already been here twice, we didn't feel that we'd seen much of it yet.

We walked down Madison Ave and some of the shops and shoppers have to be seen to be believed. If we'd thought some of the places on 5th Ave were a bit posh, this was in another league again. So much so that we didn't feel comfortable setting foot in many of them.

We did however pop into a delightful little gallery called Eden Fine Art where we saw this representation of the Beatles Abbey Road cover.

The guy in here was very friendly and was asking us all about England and what we were doing in New York.

He said that he was happy for me to take photos.

The girls agreed that their favourite exhibitor was an artist called David Krakov who makes these delightful 3D butterfly sculptures. The one above represent the 9/11 disaster and the butterflies are the departing souls.

The gallery owner joked with us about which piece we would like boxing up and sending back to Derby but with a starting price well into the $1000s, I think he realised that (short of a lottery win) this wouldn't be happening any time soon.

We carried on up Madison Avenue calling in at the Apple Store so that Dan could buy some Beats headphones. These were $199.

Our intention on reaching Central Park was to get a pony and carriage ride as it was getting really hot by now and our feet were starting to ache. However, I hadn't realised that approaching it on Madison rather than 5th meant that we were at completely the wrong end of the park! So we set off walking again, passing this monument to New York's 7th Infantry on the way.

We finally arrived at the pick up point for the carriage rides and began our tour around the park. I decided to do the short loop, which I felt at $50 for 20 minutes would be enough to give us a feel for the place. The longer loop took 40 minutes and cost $90.

This provided a welcome break from walking and our driver pointed out places of interest as we drove round.

At the end of our ride, he gave Chloe some carrots to feed to our horse, who's name was Patricia.

With the carriage ride over, we bought a park map for $2 and went to find the fun fair which Chloe had spotted from the carriage.

It is situated at the Wollman ice rink and we soon reached it but were disappointed to find that there is a $9 entrance fee just to enter the area - you then buy a wristband on top of this for the rides. As only Chloe was interested in doing any of the rides, we decided that $27 for the rest of us to just stand around and watch was a bit excessive.

Anyway, by now we really had had enough and were looking forward to getting back to the hotel for a rest.

On the way out of the park we saw a lot of pavement artists and Nicola decided to get a picture done of her and Chloe. At $15 for 2 people this one seemed more reasonably priced than most but, be warned, when he had finished he offered to frame it. Then informed us that the cost of the frame was $20!

We had to get one as the drawing was charcoal on flimsy paper and would have been pretty impossible to transport home without it.

The girls were pleased with their picture but I felt that the frame was a complete rip off which slightly soured the experience.

Once back at the hotel we had a much needed sleep in order to recouperate for the evening.

Nicola and I were meeting up with Emily to see Phantom of the Opera. Ian and Georgie had kindly offered to look after Chloe and were taking her and Dan to see Matilda. Fiona had already set off to meet up with her brother's family for their cruise on the Hudson.

Phantom was absolutely breath taking. It is Emily's favourite show and this production reduced her to tears. I wasn't sure quite what Nic would make of it as the musicals that she seen previously have been more light hearted, but she loved it too.

Unfortunately the others were less impressed with Matilda. Chloe enjoyed it but Ian and Georgie thought it really was just aimed at kids.

When we got back to the hotel Fiona had already returned. She'd had a pleasant evening. They'd decided against dining during the cruise and instead had dinner in Little Italy which she said was lovely and very reasonably priced.

She had returned with a bottle of wine so, when the kids were in bed, she invited me to join her and Emily for a glass or 2. We had a good natter for an hour or so before finally turning in at 12.30am.

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Park Hours - Wednesday 20/02/2019

WDW & Other Florida Park Hours
Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom
~to~Extra Evening Hours
Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom
Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios
Blizzard Beach
Blizzard Beach
Typhoon Lagoon
Typhoon Lagoon
Islands of Adventure
Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios
Universal Studios
Volcano Bay
Volcano Bay
Busch Gardens
Busch Gardens
Legoland Water Park
Legoland Water Park
Extra Morning Hours Early Entry for On-Site Hotel Guests.
Extra Evening Hours Extra Late Hours for On-Site Hotel Guests.
Full Schedule of Florida Park Hours

Disneyland Resort Park Hours
Disneyland Park
Disneyland Park
Walt Disney StudiosCalifornia Adventure 9:00am
Extra Morning Hours~to~
Extra Morning Hours Early Entry for On-Site Hotel Guests.
Full Schedule of West Coast Park Hours

Disneyland Paris Park Hours
Disneyland Park
Disneyland Park
Extra Morning Hours~to~
Walt Disney StudiosDisney Studios 10:00am
Extra Morning Hours~to~
Extra Morning Hours Early Entry for On-Site Hotel Guests.
Full Schedule of DLP Park Hours

US Dollar Rates
ASDA  $1.2654
CaxtonFX  $1.2768
Covent Garden FX  $1.2910
FAIRFX  $1.2750
John Lewis  $1.2732
M&S  $1.2547
Post Office  $1.2517
Sainsburys  $1.2632
TESCO  $1.2659
Travelex  $1.2600
Updated: 03:30 20/02/2019

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Euro Rates
ASDA  €1.1189
CaxtonFX  €1.1250
Covent Garden FX  €1.1348
FAIRFX  €1.1250
John Lewis  €1.1270
M&S  €1.0955
Post Office  €1.1075
Sainsburys  €1.1172
TESCO  €1.1201
Travelex  €1.1135
Updated: 03:30 20/02/2019