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Old 14 Apr 19, 08:00 PM  
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scottishnellie's Reviews
DIBB Villa Reviews: 2
Scottishnellies 5th Element Trip Jun/Jul 2019 updated 3rd May

This will be our 5th trip to Florida as a family (but thatís not why Iím calling the trippie the 5th element. More on that later). As with all our previous holidays I plan to update my report daily whilst we are away as thatís what works best for me. Links to my previous trippies are in my signature.

For those who donít know us we are the McNicols from just outside Glasgow.

Me - Helen. I will be 46 this July, and even writing that in black and white makes me think I must be talking about somebody else as I canít possibly be that old. I am the main planner of all things holiday. Well, letís be honest I am the ONLY planner. I occasionally ask the others for an opinion but most of the time I make all the decisions and convince the others I am right. Which obviously I always am of course? Last year I was made redundant after 28 years in the bank and have had a brilliant 6 months off so far. I now volunteer for Scottish Childrenís Hearings Scotland, do a bit of work with care experienced kids, spend time tutoring my 15 year old towards her exams (trust me this is not fun) make nice dinners from scratch every night and generally fly about wondering why I am even busier now than I was when I was working. I might think about going back to work somewhere part time after summer. I mightÖ..

Hubby Kevin - 47 this year. Works in the railway. Needs to think about trimming his beard back a bit before we try to enter the USA 8 weeks after returning from Turkey as he is quite dodgy looking at present. Kevin basically goes along with my plans but constantly questions and moans about how much everything costs and would scrimp on pretty much anything I would let him away with. If youíve read my previous trippies you will know Iíve learned to manage this but it still drives me nuts.

Hannah - Our 15 year old daughter. Who regular trippie readers might notice suddenly looks SO grown up. Happening way too fast and it really scares me. She now has a boyfriend on the scene and being away from him for almost a month will be interesting. I predict much face timing and mood swings. Hannah loves all the usual 15 year old girl stuff; her iphone (worshipped above ALL Gods) clothes, makeup, shoes, music, junkfood, NetflixÖÖShe enjoys the outlets, but is useless with money and has saved pretty much nothing so far, so that will also be interesting. Sheís been told not to rely on Bank of mum n dad. Last year was different as we were high on a redundancy cheque wave. This year we are riding a cautious Ďno longer working vortexí.

Kieran. Our 11 year old boy. Still loves Star Wars, Xbox, and all manner of computer games, although this has now been taken over by a love of Rugby which he only started playing 6 months ago. Heís still the happiest boy you could meet, adores his sister even when she treats him like a personal slave (he even fake tans her back for her would you believe) and is a generally good sort. He has just had 4 back molars removed and is about to be fitted with full train track braces top n bottom before we go. I am genuinely a bit worried about whether he will still be able to indulge his love of American burgers and how he will feel if he canít. I am thinking as long as we cut everything up he can still chew them? Fingers crossed or our beloved Teak may be a miserable experience.

And - ta da! Meet our 5th element. This is the lovely Caitlin, our 17 year old niece. For the purposes of accuracy she is my husbands sisters daughter. I know I have been confused about family ties in other folks trippies before! Caitlin has always wanted to be a vet and has worked really hard through high school to get what she wants. She has now earned a coveted offer of a place in vet school at Glasgow University starting in September. She just needs her last 2 grades to come in this summer so all fingers crossed. She is a wee grafter and as well as studying hard she works in McDonaldís and has paid her own flight, trains and Disney ticket for this holiday with us stumping up for all food n drink etc while away. She has been saving hard (putting her wee cousin to shame) and is very much looking forward to shopping! Caitlin originally declined to come with us when we first asked as she didnít want to be away from home for her 18th Birthday so we went ahead and started booking without her. She then changed her mind so we have added her to existing plans and booked what was needed. Just so you know why some costs or plans look a bit odd with add ons having been done later.

So whatís the plan so far?

We get the train down to Manchester on Thurs 20th June, which is free for the 4 McNicols with Kevins staff travel, and I managed to get Caitlin a ticket for £20.40 for the train we wanted by booking 12 weeks out via Raileasy and using a split ticketing tool from the Moneysaving expert website. So she has one seat Glasgow to Preston, then is supposed to switch to the seat across from that for Preston to Manchester! Nuts Ė but it saved £20 that way. When we reach 6 weeks out I need to visit the ticket office and reserve us 4 seats near hers with our staff passes. We will then stay overnight in Premier Inn Heald Green which cost £49 room only, then another £49 when we added a second room for Caitlin. Heald Green suits us as itís a (free for us) 3min journey straight into the airport in the morning.

Flights - we were originally going for exactly 3 weeks and paid £449.98 per person for 4 of us direct with Thomas Cook, MANĖMCO when we booked in July 2018 at 11 months out. When we got to October and added a flight for Caitlin this had gone up to £609.98 but couldnít be helped. As with previous years Iíve booked Manchester with Thomas cook, I started watching the price of the Orlando to Glasgow flights around our return date checking prices daily against what we paid for our existing return flights to Manchester. Thomas cook will let you transfer for an admin fee plus the difference in flight cost so I was watching until the flight cost went below our original so we only had the fees to pay. Our admin fees were £50pp but Caitlins was £100 as the T&Cs had changed by the time we booked hers. Long story short, after months of watching them I have just managed to transfer us to the Glasgow flight coming home 2 days later for the £300 admin fees, which is why we are now there for 23 days instead of a straight 3 weeks. This is now the 4th time Iíve done it this way. The only year we couldnít was when we flew with Thomson as they wonít do it. This still works out over £700 cheaper than booking return Glasgow flights in the first place and we donít mind Manchester on the way out. Itís on the way home itís a killer. Especially when we live 5 minutes from Glasgow airport. So I am happy with this.

Car - this is the one and only thing that Kevin deals with for our holiday so Iím a bit sketchy. The only dibb pages he reads are the car ones and he booked this deal he saw talked about on the dibb. He has since added another 2 days (which they simply charged us the same daily rate for) when we changed the flights, so in total he has paid £669.60 for the 23 days and is pretty chuffed with himself.

Once thereÖÖ

1st night
Rosen Inn Pointe Orlando - booked through Netflights for £52. Our flight was originally arriving in Orlando about 6pm so we booked this rather than drive straight to Anna Maria as we assumed we would be too tired. TC have since changed our flight to quite a bit earlier and we arrive about 2pm. We are just adding a rollaway bed when we get there which will do Kieran for the night and will just squeeze in. Rosen have confirmed via email we are ok to do this at check in for $15. Weíve stayed here a few times on arrival night now and suits us fine. Love being able to walk across the road to restaurants. And although it will be a squeeze we are in no hurry next morning so can rotate pool time with getting ready.

7 nights
Sassy Seahorse, Anna Maria Island
Iím fingers crossed here as this hinges on the dreaded red tide. I found this house via another dibber who had booked it and was due to go in aug18. It had everything we wanted so I booked it too. That dibber then had to cancel due to red tide in AMI in August and the red tide has been on and off ever since. I am praying I wonít end up doing the same.

We went to AMI for just one night last year and instantly fell in love with the place. I would hate to have to change this part of the holiday as itís probably the part Iím most looking forward to, but if red tide is bad I might have to. No point if we canít use the beaches. So I constantly read all the red tide updates and have umpteen AMI pages on my Facebook too. Itís looking OK right now (whisper it, donít jinx it!). Thereís a video of the house among the photos on Home and Away. I think it looks stunning and has great reviews. The owner stays on the island just up the road from this house. Hopefully this link works...


I booked this through airbnb as it was slightly cheaper on there than home and away at $2295 for the 7 nights including all the taxes and cleaning fees etc. So the plan is to leave the Rosen on our first morning, drive to AMI, get the shopping in and hire bikes from Beach Bums on pine avenue for the week. Walking and cycling only is the plan.

I have a list of restaurants to try if we do eat out, but we will play it by ear. I can see us spending many a night just using that barbecue and a salad rather than venturing out though to be honest.

Plan is to chill chill chill. We might do a kayak trip. We might do a boat tour. Who knows at this point. We were really lucky with the wildlife we saw in just one day last year so are hoping for lots of good sightings.

The day we check out from AMI is Caitlinís 18th birthday. Plan is to stop at Ellenton outlets for some retail therapy then drive on up to Orlando and into the villa for our final 15 nights.

We will collect our Walmart order using click and collect like Iíve done the past 2 years. Then we will head to city walk for the evening and find somewhere to eat. Since itís Caitlinís birthday the girls wanted somewhere to go they can dress up that had a bit of a party buzz about it, and since there was live music etc when we were there last year weíve opted for this. But if anyone has any other suggestions please please let me know! Caitlin is fully aware it will be an alcohol free affair given the age 21 laws!

15 nights
Caribe Brisa Villa Ė DIBB Villa, High Grove

This is the third year in a row we have booked this villa. We love it. You will find it on the villa section of the dibb. Itís owned by a Canadian couple called Randy and Barb and they are so friendly and helpful. Randy reads my trippies (Hi Randy!) and we chat back n forth about places to go and things to do while we are there. He introduced us to the Lake Minneola Tiki Bar that is now one of our favourite places.

He has made a few suggestions to me this year that I am looking into too. The villa itself has everything you could need, is always spotless, and very comfortable. Our favourite thing is the location. The pool overlooks a conservation area and we spend ages watching the wildlife.

Especially in the morning then again late at night when we are in the spa. The pool feels very private and we rarely see another soul (unless you count Mr Gator who sometimes patrols the lake outside!) When we added the extra 2 days Randy did me a bit of a discount on pool heating etc so I will have paid in total $2440 for the 15 nights including all taxes, cleaning fees, pool and spa heating, paypal fees etc.

The room sharing here will be interesting as Hannah is determined to have her usual big double room with ensuite, but this would leave Caitlin in one of the twins sharing a Jack n Jill bathroom with Kieran in the other twin room. Plenty of bedroom space (and then some) but seems unfair for Caitlin to share a bathroom with Kieran so this is yet to be decided!

While at the villa we have 14 day ultimates for Disney which were £394 each through Orlando Attraction Tickets, so the main plan is alternating Disney days with shopping and Ďotherí activites. No Universal this year as last year we did Universal with no Disney. And we didn't enjoy SeaWorld or Busch as much last year so are ditching those too. I do feel a bit bad that Caitlin won't get all the Harry Potter stuff but I can't justify another £800 and shoe-horning that in.

We have booked the controversial 1 night campsite throwaway booking to give us the magicbands and 60 day fastpasses (praying we get a couple for Flight Of Passage). We paid $108.

We might do the kayak down Rock River again as Kevin and I loved it and Caitlin quite fancies it. I am convincing Hannah and Kieran there will be less spiders this year given they have had another whole year to clear the overhanging trees since last years storm. Hee-hee! There are lots of things I am looking into though. We are just back from a week in Turkey so am ready for full on Florida planning now.

I am absolutely determined to make it to Celebration this year. We have been 5 years running and itís shameful that I still havenít been.

As always, all comments and suggestions are most welcome. In particular if anyone has any better ideas for the evening of Caitlins 18th Birthday rather than citywalk? Somewhere with music and a good party vibe that lets the girls get dolled up and dance a bit would be great (but us fogeys and 11 year old Kieran all need to be able to go too).

So thatís the plans so far. What d'you think?

UPDATE 3rd May 2019 - Well my 60 day FP window opened today for our one night campsite booking. I was sitting waiting for the clock to roll round to 12:00 clicking through the fastpass to the calendar section to see when it would open up my dates, computer clock clicks over to 12:00 and ... it kicked me out! Aaaargh. I tried logging back in 'we can't show your plans at present, please try later' WHIT? ! .

Tried on my phone and it logged me in but would only show me - the other 4 of my party were missing. After an agonising 7 minutes of trying to login on every device in the house I eventually got in via the home computer using chrome as my browser. Phew. We get 60 days out for our check in day and check out day so having read a tip on DIBB I jumped straight to check out day (hoping everyone else would still be booked day 1) and managed to bag Flight Of Passage for 6.30pm. Phew Phew Barley McGrew. Finished my FP for that day, then went back in to check in day for which the plan is Hollywood Studios. So I now have:


I'm delighted to have a FP for FOP

Despite the loophole being closed that used to allow the remainder of the dates to be 60 days booking too, I feel my campsite booking was worth it for this plus the 5 magicbands and 2 days free parking. I will probably keep using the DIBB FP availability thingy to see if I can get FOP for another day once I am within my 30 days but I don't fancy my chances.

UPDATE as at 15th June:

Fastpasses - So I have now booked all our Fastpasses for the whole holiday and I was right - no FoP. Also couldn't get Seven Dwarves or Tower of Terror. So I am glad I did the campsite thing and at least have one FoP. I am watching the FP availability tool daily just in case but I think there's no chance of another. I am also going to try the tap and modify tip I've read about as soon as we use our first FP each day to try to maximise what we get done, so will see how that goes.

Family - Kieran has his braces fitted and is confident he can manage his Teak burgers with a knife and fork. He is determined! Hannahs exams are all over. I think I am as relieved about it as she is! I am happy that she put everything she could into working for them so I don't really mind what the results actually are when they arrive in summer. I know she has done her best and that's all I ask for. We have the consent forms all sign by Caitlins parents for taking her to USA when she is under 18.

Kevins Brother - Kevins brother Stan arrives in Florida with his son Calum (9) while we are there. He starts in Miami and works his way up the coast coming to Orlando 5th to 12th July so we have some days where we might cross paths. I set him all up on MDE and booked his fastpasses for him. So they might make an appearance in the report at some point too.

Trains - I've got our seats reserved with our staff passes to sit near Caitlin from Glasgow to Manchester. We are the row in front so near enough. Kevin will probably swap to her seat anyway as he is planning to sleep on the train as he is coming in off nightshift that morning.

Car Hire - Well that has changed completely! Kevin decided he didn't want the prestige SUV he had booked with Hertz as it is a standard size. He decided he wanted a full size SUV instead so the 3 kids can spread out a bit when we have no luggage in. So he has been checking it every single day (and talking about it every single day ) then just a few days ago Andys Discount Florida Hire price came down to £671 so only a couple of pounds more. So he cancelled Hertz and booked with Andy. It is with Alamo so today I have done online checkin and Skip The Counter. Skip the Counter was a right fouter but got there in the end by changing the URL address above to force it to let me do it. I have updated the Alamo comments on the sticky in the hope it helps someone else.

Hotel Addition - I've added a second room at Rosen Inn Point Orlando on our first night. I used my Tesco vouchers so only paid £9 cash so happy with that. It will be worth it for the girls to have their own room and bathroom instead of all squished in! A better start I think.

AMI is free of red tide so that's a huge relief! I've been reading the thread about the Thomas cook plane changing to WAMOS and I am hoping that doesnít happen to us. I know its not a game changer but I like binge watching the films I never normally get the time to see so want the IFE! So that's my next concern.

That's about it I think.

Not long now!

And hereís a link to the full completed trip report:

Edited at 03:31 PM.
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