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Old 29 May 16, 08:33 PM  
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Caroian
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The "Years in the Making" Trip - Travel Day

I seem to have been able to waffle on for nearly three and a half thousand words about sitting in a large tin can with wings for nine hours and then checking in to a hotel. Ooops. But then, I did warn you that brevity is not my strong point! Pictures are also a bit lacking and a bit low in quality today - sorry about that

Previous day is here
The index is here

At last, the big day was here!

We all woke up pretty early - we couldn't sleep because we were [stage whisper a la old DisneyWorld adverts] "too excited".

We showered, dressed and headed out to get breakfast. We just walked out of the hotel in to the North terminal and made a decision on the Jamie's coffee place as it was right there and had no queue. Juice, coffee, muffins, fruit etc. We double checked which desks we needed to go to for bag drop and headed back to the Sofitel to get said bags.

We picked up the suitcases, but left half of the hand baggage in the hotel room. We had three of the cabin trolley cases amongst us, as BA allow a lot of hand luggage. If we had to put it in the hold then so be it, but taking max size carry ons would essentially give us extra baggage space without the charge for an extra bag - particularly useful on the return flight! We only waited in the queue for about three minutes - spotting other travellers who were definitely off to Orlando - before dropping our bags. Our three suitcases were all well underweight at around 12, 15 and 17kg. My parents obviously only had two cases (but should have needed less as there is only the two of them!) but they were pushing it with 18 and 21kg bags! We took the car seat over to outsize and then headed back to the Sofitel one last time.

We picked up all of the carry ons and went back in to the terminal to head through security. Security was not a happy experience today! We're all regular travellers and completely unphased by it, but it seemed to be a catalogue of errors. Firstly they wanted each and every electrical device in its own tray. So each iPad needed its own tray. And each laptop. Then each set of liquids had to be in a separate tray (And I have extras for medication). Each bag on its own. And finally cardigans, loose items etc. I've never seen such meticulous segregation of items, and it has certainly changed in the few months since we last flew from Gatwick! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem following the rules, but the upshot was a line of about 15 trays just for our family! My dad had to hang back due to lack of space for trays.

Now, I always set the detectors off (due, I think, to my insulin pump), so Ian always goes first so I can send Thomas to him. Except today, he set it off too. No worries, send my mum next. But…. she set it off too. before I had a moment to swap with my dad, Thomas had set off through himself. He was fine, of course. So I followed, to catch up with him and as usual set the detector off. So all three of us were diverted to the body scanners and extra screening area, my dad was held up holding multiple trays and... The security guy told me I must send Thomas round to the other side by himself. He was not allowed to accompany us in to the additional screening area and just pass through, and obviously we could not go with him.

He's four! I was deeply unimpressed.

Again, security is fine, but there has to be some common sense applied. Thomas is pretty sensible, and by the time my dad caught up with him he was fine. but supposing he was a younger child? Or one much more bothered about being separated from his parents? Or one less bothered about being separated from his parents, and therefore prone to simply wandering through in to the departures area?

To add to this, I then removed my insulin pump and clearly asked for a hand inspection. The manufacturers advise it does not go through the X-Ray scanner or back scatter machines. I' m not particularly precious about it, but my current one is only a few months in to warranty and I don't want to invalidate that. I was clear in my request that it not be X-rayed and just be examined by security personnel. The guy said that was ok. I turned... And he shoved it through the X-Ray machine. To say I was getting irritated now is an understatement! (It was, as I knew it almost certainly would be, absolutely fine. But it's the prinicipal. I've travelled with an insulin pump for 15 years without major incident, but I also has issues at MCO on the way home this time too. Without too many spoilers, I thought most airport security officials, especially in the US, would have come across plenty of pumps by now, but obviously not.)

My dad finally came through (without setting the detector off) and managed to find Thomas who was standing completely alone post security. But he then had to round up the entire family's trays whilst we were still being held for security and all the while being shouted at that he couldn't reload things from the trays where they came off the belt, they had to be taken to the side. As he pointed out to officials, how exactly was he supposed to carry so many trays, manage a child who had already been left unattended and all whilst there was no actual available free space at the tables where you are supposed to sort out all of your stuff!

Given that this is a brand new security area, they could not really have designed it more poorly. Nor could the staff have cared any less about what they were doing on that Monday morning! I stopped to find out how to pass comment and the guy said "well, you can write it on this sheet" I told him that the A1 sheet of paper may not be big enough so he invited me to give him my feedback. I told him it was wholly inappropriate to make a four year old wander off without an adult. He agreed and said he should have been taken through the body scanner channel, without being scanned, and he promised to "re-train" the staff involved. Who knows if that will happen. As for the trays and unloading issue well, guess what, they haven't built enough space to make this work. Gaaaah! It’s a big thumbs down to Gatwick North from me!

Horrible security experience over, we headed in to departures. We had a little time before the gate was called, so we took it in turns to do some shopping. Ian and I popped to WH Smiths to get a plain sandwich for Thomas for the plane (they do a basic just cheese sandwich) and water. I then headed to duty free with my mum and picked up Thierry Mugler's Alien and some Benefit cosmetics, plus an extra P20 sunscreen. We got a voucher which my parents then took back for money off their own purchases. I also popped to Boots for some moisturiser as my skin had gone incredibly dry and flying was only going to worsen that.

Pretty soon the gate was up (I still don't get how people have time to go to lounges. We dropped bags three hours before departure, went back for hand luggage and straight through security which, whilst annoying, was not overly long. And then did a bit of shopping, took turns to go to the toilet and had no remaining time!) We headed to the gate and got there fairly soon (no long walk today!) and so got in before the big queue built up. We settled down in some seats and waited to board.



Sitting right at the front of economy, as expected, we were the very last to board. Plenty of room for all our bags though, so nothing had to be checked in to the hold. We had two seats in Row16 (next to an extra legroom seat) and the three behind. I got the short straw of sitting with Thomas in the two, as the row behind doesn't actually have a window and he wanted to watch us take off. So began his absolute devotion to me for this holiday - we joke he has ‘favourite parent of the week” as he likes to change his allegiance, but I was clearly “favourite parent of the holiday” for some reason. The guy sitting next to me was with the lady in front in the bulkhead seats who had their son (about three I think) and a baby. They were good seat companions to have. He didn't seem too bothered by letting us out for the inevitable multiple toilet trips and they were up and down a bit themselves. Thomas was fine on the plane - he's always liked flying. He watched some CBeebies, we read some books, did some puzzles and dot to dots.



The kids food came in advance of the adults, which is a nice touch. It wasn't great food - chicken nuggets, mash, peas and corn. Thomas picked at it a bit! It also came with a rather odd roasted vegetable salad, which even the stewardess commented she couldn’t see many children eating. I'm pretty sure that I had cottage pie and it was reasonably edible. They brought the afternoon tea round really late and even though they brought the kids first, I'd already given Thomas the cheese sandwich we bought because he couldn't wait. The adult offering was pretty awful too, but we had snacks so we survived!

The hardest thing for me about flying with a small child is not quite knowing what to do with myself! In my pre-child days I'd usually watch a few films, or read a whole book. Ian and I used to play endless rounds of Uno (with me thrashing him of course). But with a small child I can't bring myself to start watching a film, or reading a book, as I know I'll likely be needed for something. I did swap seats for a while with Ian, and read a magazine my mum had brought. And Thomas did fall asleep for a bit (he is famously the boy who never sleeps - we can count the number of times he's slept properly through the night on the fingers of two hands. At four and a half! I may find it hard to have sympathy for anyone who complains that their six month old is not "sleeping through". But I digress.)

Nodding off...

...full on asleep. How come kids can do stuff like this without it hurting?!

We landed pretty much on time and being at the front of economy served us well as we were straight off and pretty near the front of the immigration queue in an immigration hall that had clearly been pretty empty until we arrived. We were up within 10 minutes and through before the bags, which then didn't take too long to appear. We went through customs with no issues and on to the second bag drop. (Why do we call it that? What is classed as the first drop? Putting them on the plane, I guess?) We had already planned to use the second bag drop as we had five suitcases and the car seat, plus three cabin cases and carry ons. Thomas obviously couldn't carry much, and my mum has bad arthritis in her hands so would struggle with cases on the escalator. The weather was glorious, and the risk of a storm delaying the bags seemed small, so I couldn't be bothered with the hassle.

We jumped on the monorail, much to Thomas's excitement (train obsessed remember). We reached the second carousel and had about five minutes to wait before the bags appeared, so it was very straightforward for us. Whilst we were waiting Thomas was rounding up all the other children nearby telling them it was a train, and a train would be coming through the opening with all of our bags. Several of them joined in his little game. He was absolutely full of beans.

Once we had the bags we had a bit of hassle getting an elevator as they all kept arriving full, but we were soon down one level and on our way to the Magical Express. It actually took a while to check in as neither of the reference numbers Disney had given us (and that we'd used to link to MDE etc) actually located our booking. I'll be honest that the lady helping us didn't feel very "Disney" as it all seemed a bit too much trouble for her when the US guests were just strolling up and scanning their Magic Bands. She eventually found us by name - but a completely different reference number! We were soon boarding a bus that was already fairly full. We got seats at the back - the row of three next to the toilet was ideal for Ian, Thomas and I, and my mum and dad sat in front. Thomas was very insistent that he wear his seatbelt, although I had to thread it under his arm to stop it going across his neck!





As the bus was already full, we left almost straight away. Before too long we were passing under *that* arch and OKW was the first stop.

The Magical Express was a real hit with Thomas. He absolutely loved spotting them throughout DisneyWorld (along with the Cruise Line buses, which as he said, “would take us on a big boat Daddy” *nudge* *nudge* ) After a few days though, he realised that some Magical Express buses were taking people back to the airport, rather than away from it. “That’s not magical” he said. “That’s the Sad Express”. From then on every bus we saw (a lot of them, obviously) we had to have a debate about whether it was a Magical Express or a Sad Express. “I think that’s a sad express” he’d say, in a forlorn little voice, whenever we happened to see a Magical Express bus pulling out of a resort!

But anyway, we hadn’t even checked in yet, never mind worrying about the Sad Express.

Bags unloaded and left with bell services, we headed inside to check in. My dad was the one who had done most research in to the resort and had an idea of exactly which buildings he'd like to be in. We weren't given one of those initially (I think we were offered 29), but when he asked, they had one in one of the blocks that he'd wanted, so we given that one instead. It was on the second (first) floor of building 46.

Thomas was asked to pick a balloon model and chose a fishing rod, which he was delighted with (unsurprisingly, it didn't last long and I don't seem to have any proper pictures). We'd also ordered a surprise for him from Disney Floral and Gifts. We wanted him to have an autograph book to start the following morning, and we'd planned to get him a stuffed Mickey and Minnie, so actually ordering the gift with this plus a whole bunch more seemed like good value. It was really nicely packaged. This was handed to us at reception. To be honest, I would have preferred them to bring it to the room (as the site suggests they will) rather than just hand it over at reception. But then, I suppose that we'd have been waiting for it. And Thomas was then very excited to get to the room to open it and see what was inside.

We jumped in a golf cart with all of the luggage and were driven down to our room. Magic Band used for the first time and we were in!



There are plenty of reviews and pictures of two beds at OKW, so I don't really need to repeat all the information here, but suffice to say we were very happy. My parents took the master bedroom and we were sharing with Thomas, who was pleased to have his own double bed! Building 46 proved to be in a great location as it was just between Peninsular Road and South Point (3 minutes from the South Point Bus stop) with a fantastic view over the water and no road noise at all. It was also a good location for the buses (second stop, so we almost always got a seat) and was still in easy walking distance to Hospitality House. Thomas was so excited that he got to see the Disney Springs boats passing every 20 minutes or so and would rush outside to wave every time he heard one coming. (The only potential drawback of this location is that the buses honk loudly as they are coming around the corner - we didn’t find it a problem though, and it was a great warning for Thomas that there was a boat around.)



Thomas set to work freeing his Mickey and Minnie and the other gifts and ran around a lot with his mouse ears and hands on. Given that it must have been getting on for 11pm in body clock time, he was doing incredibly well!









We walked (or - in Thomas’s case - skipped) down to Goods to Go to get our refillable mugs and pick up some food. It was our first time using dining credits, and although I'd researched the dining plan inside out, I still ended up getting confused because the lady at the counter told us we could all pick two sides. And I was like "what?" It took me a minute to get my head around the fact that she was assuming we would swap our drinks for an extra dessert/side since she had just given us our refillable mugs! We got a selection of hot dogs, burgers and chicken tenders (if you want exhaustive details on who ate what then I'm afraid you're in the wrong trip report!) plus 2 desserts each. We picked wrapped rice crispie treats and cookies to keep, plus key lime pies. And then another lady appeared and asked if we'd just arrived and what Thomas's name was. When we said yes, and Thomas told her his name she said "well Thomas, Mickey just sent you this chocolate cake". Little bit of pixie dust there, but just a taster of the ridiculous amount of food we were going to have to contend with!

We took the food back to our room and sat outside to eat. Thomas mostly only ate his chocolate cake, but who cares? We were in Florida! And he enjoyed it. I’d already read that Goods to Go wasn't great, and to be honest that's very true. This was probably some of the least good QS food we had all holiday, but I'm prepared to say that being tired and jet lagged probably didn't help my assessment. The Key Lime Pie was very delicious though!





Things become a bit hazy after this, as I don't have any notes. We did a bit of unpacking. I know we put Thomas in the bath and he insisted on a story and then crashed straight out. To be honest, being that tired was a blessing, because in any other circumstance he'd have been up and playing around. Getting him to sleep on European Holidays has been a major challenge in the past! He was in bed around 8.30, so 1.30am UK time.

Really tired...

...but loving Mickey and Minnie!

We did a little bit of extra unpacking and sorting out, and looked at timings for the morning, then we crashed in to bed around 10pm.
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Old 29 May 16, 09:49 PM  
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Great travel day but can't believe Security allowed a 4 year old through on his own !
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Old 29 May 16, 11:15 PM  
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Good start. Ridiculous from security at the airport though x
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Old 30 May 16, 02:50 PM  
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Poor Thomas. Good for him staying calm through security my DD wouldn't have done. Great travel report 😀
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Old 30 May 16, 05:14 PM  
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Can't believe Gatwick security insisted Thomas went through on his own. How irresponsible of them.
Looks like his nap on the plane did him the world of good and he sounds more awake and raring to go than I am after that journey. Love that he already understands the 'Sad Express'.

Thanks for posting.
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Old 30 May 16, 07:29 PM  
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Caroian
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Originally Posted by Mel49 View Post
Great travel day but can't believe Security allowed a 4 year old through on his own !
Originally Posted by laalaa View Post
Good start. Ridiculous from security at the airport though x
Originally Posted by Dinxylady View Post
Poor Thomas. Good for him staying calm through security my DD wouldn't have done. Great travel report 😀
Thank you all. I'm glad that it wasn't just us thinking the security was a bit mad. If we hadn't been on our way to Florida I think I would have made more of a fuss at the time. At least it all worked out ok.

Originally Posted by Mortimer Mouse View Post
Can't believe Gatwick security insisted Thomas went through on his own. How irresponsible of them.
Looks like his nap on the plane did him the world of good and he sounds more awake and raring to go than I am after that journey. Love that he already understands the 'Sad Express'.

Thanks for posting.
Thank you. I think power naps are clearly the answer! He had a few more as the trip progressed and always bounced back even springier than ever! He's a pretty sensitive kid at heart and I think that's why the "Sad Express" occurred to him. It's so true though
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Old 30 May 16, 08:06 PM  
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Great travel day. We found the DME staff to be...lacking a bit too.

Laughed at Thomas' sleeping position, wish I could do that on a plane!
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Old 30 May 16, 09:34 PM  
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Great report and start to your holiday, but very poor in Gatwick for your son. Can't wait to keep reading x
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Old 7 Jun 16, 10:47 PM  
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Thomas is such a cutie - bless him with his observation about the "Sad Express" - I think all Dibbers should call it that from here on in!

Looking forward to reading more about your trip
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Old 8 Jun 16, 01:53 PM  
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Such a great travel day, bar all the fuss at security that is... I am appalled they would send Thomas through on his own and I am glad you were able to make a point about it so hopefully no other families have to go through this!

So excited to keep reading, your level of detail has got me engrossed! Loving it!
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