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Old 30 Nov 21, 08:05 PM  
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Supersofe
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Cookies and Scream! November 2021 Post-Trip Pre-Trip Report

Hello everyone and welcome to my trip report. This is my first time writing a trip report so please let me know if you have any questions or if I have missed anything. I’m actually writing this pre-trip report after I have got home from our November 2021 holiday. I had always kind of planned writing one but didn’t want to tempt fate by starting! I still can’t believe we actually got to go. I called this report “Cookies and Scream” as I have a penchant for a Disney World cookie, and we both love roller-coasters so a lot of screaming was done!


Introductions

This trip was just me and my partner, we are both 30 and we are from Bristol. I have been lucky enough to go Florida a fair few times with my family as a child and I absolutely love it. We have both been again with my family and we have been as a couple once before in January 2018.

As traditional for every trip report at the moment, a history- we had originally planned to go back to Florida in November 2020. You might want to skip this next bit if you’re sick of hearing about cancelled holidays and changing plans!

We mostly booked our 2020 holiday as a package with Virgin Holidays with direct flights from Gatwick. We also booked a DVC rental with DVC Rental Store for 4 nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We bought our tickets (Disney, Universal and Seaworld/ Busch) through Klook. We managed to grab one of their 30% off codes for their birthday so really got a bargain!After having our hopes up for much of 2020 this holiday was eventually cancelled in September 2020.

At this point, we contacted DVC rental Store about our trip. Animal Kingdom Lodge was open but they agreed to give us a credit note for the full cost of the rental we had paid so far. They did this for guests if you were unable to travel from your home country due to a government travel ban. The credit note had to be redeemed by the Nov 2022. We were really happy with the service from DVC Rental Store and felt they had been more than fair and very helpful.

Klook refunded our Disney tickets but the Universal and Seaworld tickets were extended. So we at least got to keep our bargains for these!

Way back in December 2020, we (perhaps stupidly) felt pretty positive that we would be able to go on our holiday in November 2021 so we started planning again! We rebooked a package again with Virgin, I work for the NHS so got 5% discount and this included the Disney tickets. We used our DVC Rental Store credit note to book 4 nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge for the end of our holiday. By this point DVC rental store had changed their policy. The stay was non-refundable unless you purchased their “payment protection plan” which would have added about £350 to the cost of our stay. We decided not to purchase this.
We were due to fly on Sunday 7th November 2021 (spot the incoming issue here!). We got planning but as 2021 progressed, started to feel not very positive about our prospects of going.

When the lifting of the travel ban was announced for “early November” we were over the moon and were feeling excited about our 7th November flights. This then slowly started to fade and eventually our whole package was cancelled by Virgin Holidays on 14th October. The next day the date of the borders opening was announced as November 8th. Therefore we decided to re-book everything, flying one day later than originally planned! This meant we were still able to use our DVC Rental that we had booked for the end of our holiday.

Sorry this feels like a very long story… Continued below with the actual plan!
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Old 30 Nov 21, 08:09 PM  
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THE PLAN

After Virgin cancelled our holiday and we tried to re-book for the 8th we found we were no longer able to afford direct flights. Therefore we re-booked the elements separately with indirect flights.

Flights: We booked these via British Airways. Flight out was with American Airlines, 8th November London Heathrow to Philadelphia at 12.35pm (arrival 16.05pm). Then a connecting flight to Orlando 19.50pm (arrival 22.35pm).
Return was direct on Tues 23rd Nov with British Airways (dep 18.55pm arriving in Heathrow at 8am) (cost bundled with hotel below).

Hotels: I really wanted to mix and match hotels to make the most of all the advantages to staying onsite at Disney/ Universal but also save a bit of money by staying offsite for some of the holiday. So we ended up with 4 different hotels for our 2 week holiday

8th-11th Nov: 4 nights Universal Endless Summer (Surfside). We booked this as a package with our BA flights. In total with our flights (for 2 adults including bags) this came to £1240. This hotel included early entry to the parks but not the express passes that you get with the swanky hotels. This did not include parking. We chose Surfside over Dockside somewhat randomly, mainly as I had read that it was a bit smaller.

12th- 16th Nov: 5 Nights Hawthorne Suites, Lake Buena Vista. We stayed here for our last holiday and found it pretty good (nice and quiet with a great location) so had booked this again with our original Virgin Holidays package. Once this was cancelled this hotel was not offered by BA so we booked it direct with the hotel. This came to $475 for a 1 bed suite (i.e. bedroom and kitchen) and this included breakfast and parking.

17th-18th Nov: 2 Nights Walt Disney World Dolphin. It gets even more complicated! My partner had been saving up points on his American Express card, this was boosted by an introductory offer to give bonus points when he joined. Therefore we were able to book 1 night at the Dolphin with these points. When we found about the extra magic hours for deluxe resort hotel guests we decided to add an extra night to our stay here. We had to pay the tax and resort fee on the room booked with points. The total for both nights including this was about $350 for a standard king room. This did not include parking. We chose Dolphin over Swan as it was fractionally cheaper.

19th-23rd November: 4 nights Animal Kingdom Lodge. This was an absolute dream come true for me. I have wanted to stay here for a long time and never thought it would be possible. We were able to do this by renting DVC points through DVC rental store. This was still expensive but this really was a once in a lifetime for us. As described above we had some complications with cancellations and credit notes but the cost for this stay was $1176 (the original cost for 2020 was $950 so we had to pay a bit more when this was delayed) for a studio with a standard view. As we were technically DVC guests, this price included parking. A note about renting DVC points: we had to book this 11 months prior to our holiday.

Tickets:

Disney Tickets: We booked these through Florida Tix who had a 5% discount to celebrate the re-opening borders. We got 2x 14 Day Ultimate Tickets for £855.

Universal Tickets: As mentioned above, we bought these for our 2020 holiday and these were extended by Universal. We managed to get a 30% off Klook code so these worked out as about £375 for 2x 14 day 3 park tickets.

Seaworld/ Busch Gardens: Again we bought these for 2020 through Klook with our 30% off code and they were also extended so they could be used in 2021. These worked out as about £155 for 2 adults (3 park ticket).

Car Hire: Like lots of others when trying to rebook our holiday we found the cost of car hire to be absolutely insane! To try and reduce the cost we decided to pick up the car after our Universal Studios stay. We happened across a reasonable offer when browsing Holiday Autos. This was £567 for a small SUV for 12 days from Avis. We picked this up from International Drive and returned it to the airport at the end of the trip.

Covid Tests: We originally booked our pre-flight lateral flow tests with Lloyds pharmacy. However, after reading some dodgy reviews, we decided to cancel these and re-book for video supervised lateral flows with Breathe Assured (following lots of Dibb advice). These cost £66 for the two of us and we booked them for Fri 5th Nov, 3 days before our flights. We booked our day 2 lateral flow tests for return (as was required at the time) with Chronomics for £34 for both of us.

PPHHEEEW, that is a lot of information! Please let me know if anyone has any questions or anything I may be able to help with. As I said, we are home from the holiday and I made lots of notes so I hope to be getting on with the trip report soon!
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