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Old 8 Nov 21, 05:51 AM  
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Serious Dibber
Join Date: Jun 18
Location: Yorkshire, UK
My experience on the first Virgin flight to Orlando - VS75 / MAN-MCO


Well here we are!

Day one of entry into our beloved US and by pure coincidence the day myself and family also travel to Orlando.

After 4 cancelled trips (including a TUI flight that was supposed to leave tomorrow), it痴 finally time to head back to Florida for the first time in 3 years.

This may well be posted in the wrong forum and if so I apologise. My aim is to share my experience with as many of you as possible so you know what to expect when your travel day arrives so I thought the post was best suited here and in its own thread rather than getting lost in another.

We are a family of three; myself, wife and 2 year old son, and all though myself and wife have been to Orlando before, this is the first trip for our son.

I値l split this post into 6 sections and I値l update the post as the day goes on so please bear with me.

- Preparation.
- At the airport.
- Flight to Orlando.
- MCO.
- The rest of the day.
- Travelling home.
- Video of the trip (Posted on the last page of this post)

I hope this post is useful and if you have any extra questions, please let me know and I値l be happy to answers these over the coming days.

Instagram & YouTube: TwoAndThreeQuartersUK
Previous Trips: 1995, 2000, 2004, 2015/16, 2017, 2018 x2, 2021 & 2022.
Next Trip: September 2022 - Loews Royal Pacific.
My experience on US borders opening day: php?t=1207820

Edited at 03:03 PM.
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Old 8 Nov 21, 05:51 AM  
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Serious Dibber
Join Date: Jun 18
Location: Yorkshire, UK

Well, this felt different. I知 used to looking at crowd calendars, booking fast passes and ultimately just turning up at the airport with our passports and if I知 feeling adventurous, maybe some flight reservation paperwork.

This time, the build up was spent wondering if this trip would finally be 奏he one rather than months of excitement.

Having just had our TUI holiday to Sapphire Falls cancelled an hour earlier, I decided to book a trip with Virgin Holidays knowing their flight cancellations were currently up to the end of October and the US borders were due to open in 粗arly November.

That morning I had priced up departing on Saturday 6th November, however lucky for me, the price had jumped up 」2500 in the 10 hours since I last looked meaning we decided to book Monday 8th November instead. Had we not have booked the Monday, Virgin would have cancelled our trip within 24 hours of booking it.

The hotel availability at Universal seemed pretty sparse on our dates so we decided to stay at Cabana Bay, having last stayed there in 2018.

The next few weeks were spent similar to the rest of yours I壇 guess, trying to work out the entry requirements from the CDC and other reliable (and not so reliable) sources when the guidance coming out of the US wasn稚 so clear.

ESTA were completed a couple of weeks out and were approved about 45 minutes after application.

Around the same time I booked my car hire via Andy at Discount Florida Car Hire. We had originally planned to Uber based on car hire prices and having to pay for car parking at Sapphire Falls, but Andy found us a great price and since Cabana Bay has free parking for Virgin Holiday customers, it seemed like a good idea. Especially when we壇 have been restricted to more expensive Ubers in order to have a car seat for our son.

We booked our pre-departure tests with Breathe Assured as I knew their certificate had the words 壮upervised and 舛DC on it which filled me with confidence that it壇 be accepted for travel to the US.

We filled some details in on their website ahead of time such as names and passport numbers which meant Breathe Assured had all the information they needed bar the test result ahead of time.

We joined the Teams meeting just before 19:00 and had our three negative certificates in hand (well, email inbox) by 19:30. I can稚 recommend Breathe Assured enough. The lady we spoke to was lovely and made it a personalised experience.

Next came the attestation form which could be completed digitally via Virgin Atlantic痴 site for myself, wife and son, which I hadn稚 expected as I thought children had to complete their forms manually. Either way, I致e completed a paper form for all of us to take to the airport just in case.

The form was simple enough to complete, especially the digital version.

This was the point when I felt I could finally get excited. Work was finished for almost 3 weeks, our COVID tests were negative and paperwork completed. Unless something unexpected was to crop up, we were actually going back to Orlando!

All though we did a trip to Spain recently with digital documents, I decided (since work was covering my printing bill) that I壇 print out the documents, just in case, albeit I had everything saved on my phone too.

Online check-in was simple enough with the odd extra disclosure regarding COVID-19 symptoms. The only downside was I had to re enter everyone痴 passport details even though I did this at the time of booking.

You used to be able to check in earlier if you were a Flying Club member, however this no longer seems to be the case and everyone is eligible to check in from 24 hours before departure.

So with everything in hand, bags packed and the dogs dropped off with parents for their holiday, it was time to try and get some sleep, battling the excitement and disbelief travel day was almost here, whilst hoping I didn稚 do my normal trick of waking up at 2AM on the morning of a Florida trip.
Instagram & YouTube: TwoAndThreeQuartersUK
Previous Trips: 1995, 2000, 2004, 2015/16, 2017, 2018 x2, 2021 & 2022.
Next Trip: September 2022 - Loews Royal Pacific.
My experience on US borders opening day: php?t=1207820
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Old 8 Nov 21, 05:52 AM  
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Serious Dibber
Join Date: Jun 18
Location: Yorkshire, UK
At the airport

My alarm rang to the familiar sound of 践ello? This is Jonah Jameson, roger, over. Is this thing on? at 5AM. I have that many alarm times set up on my phone with different tones, it seemed quite apt that this is one that indicated it was time for me to get up today when I値l hopefully be riding Spider-Man later this evening.

As I致e mentioned earlier, it was our first Florida trip for our two year son and what makes this a little more difficult is the time difference - We land at 3PM EST time which is his normal bed time here at home, so we decided to let him sleep until the last minute - Of course his room has to be themed to our favourite place.


After the normal mad rush before leaving the house, even though we prepared everything we could last night, we left the darkness of West Yorkshire via a petrol station Costa for my wife.

We arrived at Terminal 2 West at just after 7AM. The East car park was full by the time we booked and some of the other options are being used for COVID-19 testing there unavailable.

I last used Terminal 2 in September and was greeted then by huge queues at every check-in desk so I was worried that today could be even worse with the amount of documents to check, however we were all checked in within 5 minutes with no queue!

We had our vaccines evidence and negative test results checked during the line, the attestation form were collected at check in (even though we壇 do them online) and on the way to check our sons pram in, we were interviewed by a BBC radio station - I don稚 think I値l be listening to that one.

We went through the family security line so were done within a few minutes. Next stop duty free to collect some aftershave which I purchased ahead of time online (for 10% off) just as our plane arrived from LHR

We headed to gate 210 which is in the old part of the terminal to watch our plane loading up.

It痴 09:20 and time to board. See you on the other side!
Instagram & YouTube: TwoAndThreeQuartersUK
Previous Trips: 1995, 2000, 2004, 2015/16, 2017, 2018 x2, 2021 & 2022.
Next Trip: September 2022 - Loews Royal Pacific.
My experience on US borders opening day: php?t=1207820

Edited at 10:26 AM.
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Old 8 Nov 21, 05:52 AM  
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Serious Dibber
Join Date: Jun 18
Location: Yorkshire, UK
Flight to Orlando

Boarding was called at 09:20 and we got on board 閃ademoiselle Rouge shortly afterwards. We instantly regretted it as it meant 40 minutes sat waiting with a two year old, but hey, it made it seem more real!

On every seat was a pillow, blanket, headphones and a hygiene pack which had a mask, rubbish bag, hand sanitiser and wipes in it.

As a disclaimer, our son has a medical condition which means under UK guidance he is exempt from wearing a mask. It was all prearranged with Virgin痴 special assistance team ahead of time and had a note added to our booking confirming so. At no point in the airport or on board the aircraft were we challenged for why he wasn稚 wearing a mask - the airport and ground crew weren稚 aware of the exemption and it痴 your guess and much as ours whether the cabin crew had seen the note on the file or not.

Doors closed at 10:02, safety video at 10:05, Captain announcement at 10:10 confirming it was the first Virgin flight to Orlando.

We pushed back at 10:14 with a camera crew recording us from the ground.

I知 going to put my street cred to one side and say as we starting pushing back, I did start to well up a little. After 3 years, hundreds if not thousands of YouTube videos and listening to Orlando podcasts every week, we were finally going again. Putting it into context, I知 not an emotional person in the slightest.

天irgin 75L (our callsign) took the skies at 10:30 - even now as I write this, it still doesn稚 feel real.

Passing Liverpool airport in the initial climb.

Myself and wife agreed I could have the window for takeoff and landing as long as she had it for the rest of the flight, with my son going between his seat and our laps throughout.

Unfortunately for me, the passenger in front of my new seat decided they wanted to recline his seat pretty much straight away. Don稚 be one of these passengers. Nobody likes you. For the 1% extra comfort you may get, you cause lots of discomfort for those behind you.

Now that our son was happy with his iPad (if your kids like YouTube, I壇 highly recommend the 1 month free trial of YouTube Premium so you can download videos to watch offline), I decided to browse Vera, Virgin痴 in flight entertainment system.

There were 114 films on board and somehow I ended up watching Fast & Furious 9. I wanted to see what was worse - the films or the ride. I had my money on the ride, but the film lived up to being an equally bad pile of Probably a good job the guy in front had reclined as it made it almost impossible to pay attention to the film. I turned off after 30 minutes.

Drinks (for us at the back) were served at 11:30. It looks like the pretzel/crisps that you壇 normally get with a drink has been dropped. Just a can of Budweiser for me, as Tiger has also gone.

Todays routing took us towards Dublin initially, before routing towards Canada and down the Eastern coast of America.

The children痴 meals were served at 12:30 and this was mac and cheese. My son turned his nose up at it, however myself and wife agreed it was pretty good.

Our food arrived at 13:00. The options were chicken pasta or vegetable Thai green curry. We opted for the chicken and it was fine, nothing more nothing less. It seemed very much a 舛OVID times meal service, so hopefully it値l improve back to the normal standard in the not too distance future.

Once food was out of the way and with 6 hours of the flight to go, I settled down to watch Black Widow, which was a good enough watched compare to F&F.

We managed to delay (well the sugar did) my sons nap time from his usually 1PM to 2PM, so hopefully this might make for a slightly less awful toddler later on tonight. My tip for any parents with young children, the toilet on the left hand side around row 50 is bigger than the others.

At 15:45, or around 3:30 minutes until arrival into MCO, shortbread biscuits were served. Shortly followed by drinks that were frequently served throughout the flight.

From this point onwards, I値l swap to Florida time which is 5 hours behind the UK.

At 11:45, the cabin crew brought round some pictures to colour in for a children痴 competition, however our son was more interesting in his new toy we gave him for the second half of the flight.

12:45 saw the arrival of snack boxes/afternoon tea. Again, none offensive, but not the tastiest.

At 13:55 we started our decent into the blue skies of Orlando.

We 遡issed the Orlando tarmac at 2:18PM. We池e home!

Photo from Twitter.

A few key points in summary:

- For the most part, everyone wore their makes on board when they needed to. I didn稚 spot the crew once telling people to put them on (probably because they didn稚 need to) and there was a little girl sat behind us, who I知 guessing was aged 2, and she had her mask on and off throughout the flight and it wasn稚 an issue for the crew or passengers a like. Likewise the children in front of us were certainly over 2 and I didn稚 see them in a mask at all.

- The aircraft was cleaned to a good standard, but not perfect, albeit the high touch points like screens and remotes all seemed clean and 壮afe.

- The seats were again, fine, but not the most comfortable for the 9 hour flight. The cabin felt much older than that of the 747痴 that left the fleet over a year ago, but it did the job.

- Crew were friendly and seemed happy throughout which is usually our experience when flying Virgin.

UPDATE: Flying with a two year old - Our experience

As requested, here is a bit more about how we tackled the flight with our son - the last time he did a long haul flight, he was a 6 month old baby, so this all felt a bit new, but thankfully a 2 hour trip to Spain helped us.

Without even realising it, we split the flight up into a few sections, but I値l add as much detail as I can below about his trip onboard.

- The excitement of getting on board. Initially, this was enough to keep him busy and occupied. Make the most of this time. No toys, no entertainment, no snacks - keep those for later.

- Once we were airborne (having already been on the plane for an hour), we tried to distract him with the inflight entertainment, watching Luca and later in the flight Toy Story, films he痴 seen before, and again, we knew looking up at the little screen wouldn稚 last forever.

- Snack time Pringles. Between him and my wife, I didn稚 get a single one.

- Next onto his iPad, something he loves and as mentioned in the original post, he spent hours watching downloaded YouTube videos on - the same videos he壇 watch at home, so this familiarity helped kill a lot of time. We bought him some child sized headphones (from Amazon I think) a few months back which he was used to wearing. When he was fed up with these, we just let him watch his iPad with the volume low as to not disturb other people.

- More food/snacks. As long as you池e not going to create a disaster that needs cleaning up, it seemed to help. Of course, lots of water too. It meant lots of trips to the toilet (again, near row 50 on the left hand side is the biggest) as we池e doing his potty training, but again, it was another thing that killed his time. We took a portable toilet the with us on the flight for him that we値l be taking with us to the parks. I did clean it with the soap wash provided, but I still felt like passengers won稚 have loved me walking down the cabin with it! I always let him walk out the toilet first and then pressed the flush as I was walking out to avoid scaring him with the noise.

- I知 sure this one is a no brainier, but do whatever you can to make nap time comfortable for your little ones and hopefully as a result, they sleep as long as possible.

- Upon waking up, the iPad disappeared and we gave him a brand new toy. He loves his Car toys and this kept him entertained for pretty much the rest of the flight. He played with it on his seat, our laps, the floor, driving it up the cabin, as long as he was safe and wasn稚 annoying anyone else, we just let him do whatever he wanted to keep him happy.

- Probably some more food/snacks in here somewhere.

- The only bit he wasn稚 a big fan on, probably through tiredness at this point as much as anything, was having his seat belt on for landing. We dealt with it the best we could, and whilst waiting to get off the flight, he had a few tears.

Overall, he did amazingly on the flight. So much better than we would have wished for.

In the airport, we pulled his own suitcase (Cars themed of course) which gave him a little job and distracted him. At this point, he wanted to be carried more often than not though.

On masks, as I致e already mentioned, on medical grounds, he didn稚 wear one, however at both airports and on the flights, parents just did the best they could. Nobody said anything, so please don稚 worry and stress about this! Some children who I saw wearing them in MCO didn稚 wear them at all on the flight and again, nothing going said. Maybe they were also exempt, but something tells me that wasn稚 the case.

We just let him stay up, playing with his new Cars Mac toy until he crashed. At times this meant he wasn稚 his usual little happy self for being overtired, but he stayed up until about 7:30PM EST which is 00:30AM BST, or about 4 hours passed his normal bed time, so hopefully this will help with the jet lag and time difference.

I hope this is a useful overview of what we did. If you have any more questions about this side of things, feel free to message me or comment below.
Instagram & YouTube: TwoAndThreeQuartersUK
Previous Trips: 1995, 2000, 2004, 2015/16, 2017, 2018 x2, 2021 & 2022.
Next Trip: September 2022 - Loews Royal Pacific.
My experience on US borders opening day: php?t=1207820

Edited at 09:49 AM.
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Old 8 Nov 21, 05:53 AM  
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Serious Dibber
Join Date: Jun 18
Location: Yorkshire, UK

Having arrived at the gate at 14:31, we finally stepped off the plane 10 minutes later.

If Manchester made a bit of an effort for the first flight, Orlando went all out for the first day. It was a surreal experience, but more on that shortly as I know there痴 one thing that a lot of you are interested in.

After a 10 minute queue at immigration, we walked to the desk, passports, negative tests and vaccination proof in hand.

There were NO additional COVID questions or documentation checks at all! No mentioned about or sons 3-5 day test, so I guess t痴 based on goodwill after you致e declared you will get a test. Good news for everyone and no reason why you can稚 bring a test with you from home to complete in your hotel room.

The bags were waiting for us shortly afterwards and it was time to head to the monorail. Juggling a pram, two bits of hand luggage and 3 suitcases was an absolute nightmare. After a long day, even though it had been great, it was just that extra bit of stress we could have done without.

That being said, from stepping off the plane, literally everyone was welcoming us back and saying hi. It made a special day feel even more amazing.

MCO carpet anyone?

As we were in the queue for the monorail, paper crowns were being given out and everyone was getting in the celebratory mood.

You turned the corner and UK and USA flags were being given out, drawstring bags, cupcakes. There were even photo ops set up. MCO had gone all out!

Shortly after getting off the monorail, I had the pleasure of bumping into Simon Veness and his wife Susan. It was lovely to speak to you and talk about our experience. Thank you in particular for my copy of Orlando & Walt Disney World 2021. I知 looking forward to having a read tomorrow! Simon Calder was also walking passed as a lovely Virgin rep helped us with our bags down to the car rental level.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I booked this through Andy at DFCH. We opted to go with Dollar due to the price vs Alamo, but my god going to the counter vs straight to the vehicle was painful.

We were all exhausted and a 45 minute queue to then try and be sold things I didn稚 want was such a contrast to the happy vibes we壇 experience just a moment ago well a long moment ago based on the queue with 3 staff members working it. The icing on the cake was trying to install the car seat we壇 hired into the car and struggling, with nobody offering to help and the advice from Dollar was 組o to a fire station and they値l help着 You can probably imagine what I wanted to say, but being British, I said 奏hank you and walked off. I grabbed a different car seat and that one was a bit easier to fit which thankfully my wife did for us. Why they can稚 just use ISO fix, I don稚 know!

So almost 2 hours after arriving and after all the emotions, we left MCO and I actually managed to stick to the right hand side of the road this time!
Instagram & YouTube: TwoAndThreeQuartersUK
Previous Trips: 1995, 2000, 2004, 2015/16, 2017, 2018 x2, 2021 & 2022.
Next Trip: September 2022 - Loews Royal Pacific.
My experience on US borders opening day: php?t=1207820

Edited at 01:59 AM.
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Old 8 Nov 21, 05:54 AM  
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Serious Dibber
Join Date: Jun 18
Location: Yorkshire, UK
The rest of the day

After a pretty straight forward drive, we arrived at Cabana Bay just after 5PM with an exhausted family.

Christmas has arrived in Orlando!

After a mix of emotions in the last hour, it felt amazing to be back onsite at Universal and the check in desk had a little surprise for us.

We壇 booked a standard room, however We received a complimentary upgrade to a Volcano Bay Room!

I知 sure the picture will do it more justice than words!

The reason I had this as a separate section was because we壇 planned to go to Islands of Adventure this evening, like we always do on travel day, but as much as it pained me not to be going, especially with Spider-Man on a 5 minute wait, it wasn稚 meant to be with how everyone was feeling. At least we have 16 more days to get those rides in.

I collected mine and my wife痴 3 park seasonal passes from the lobby, got some food and a resort cup and came back up to the room.

It痴 just gone 8PM and I知 the last one standing, finishing this final post for the day as I知 watching Harry Potter on the tv.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my travel report. I hope it answered some of your questions, helped with some of the stress, and maybe brought a little spark of that magic back.

See you in the morning Islands. Early Park Admission awaits.
Instagram & YouTube: TwoAndThreeQuartersUK
Previous Trips: 1995, 2000, 2004, 2015/16, 2017, 2018 x2, 2021 & 2022.
Next Trip: September 2022 - Loews Royal Pacific.
My experience on US borders opening day: php?t=1207820

Edited at 02:09 AM.
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Old 8 Nov 21, 05:54 AM  
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Serious Dibber
Join Date: Jun 18
Location: Yorkshire, UK
Travelling home

How can it be over already? 16 nights - Our longest trip - Where has the time gone? Another wonderful trip to Florida comes to an end.

I know this post is supposed to be about the journey home, but how could I not talk about our experience in Florida.

Firstly, a couple of the COVID bits about children as I know this will be of interest to a lot of you:

- The 3-5 day post arrival test for our son has never been mentioned since we did our deceleration forms - as expected.
- Young children weren稚 challenged in my experience to wear masks at Disney. We tried once with our two year old son and he wore it for about 10 seconds and never bothered again. Nobody seemed to mind. At Universal, masks aren稚 required full stop so a much more relaxing process then (for us), parking up the pram, walking to the front of an attraction to realise we致e left the masks in the pram pocket. This was especially annoying when my wife and son went off to do something else in the park and I only realised I didn稚 have my mask when they were well out of sight.

Secondly, a bit of information on children in the parks generally. Things we knew before, so you probably do too, but just to confirm:

- The 喪ider swap is very different between Disney and Universal. I wouldn稚 say one is better than the other in our experience, just different, and there are pros/cons of each. At Disney, one person queues, the other (who is looking after the child) gets a Lightening Lane pass (FastPass in old money) and therefore queues a lot less time than the first. At Universal, you all queue together and there痴 a 素amily swap room just before you get on the ride that has lots of chairs and a TV - usually playing something to do with the attraction you池e going on, for example Camp Cretaceous for Velocicoaster.
- A lot of the queues are really dark. We didn稚 realise this until it started to become an issue for our son initially. I would say he痴 ever been scared of the dark at home, but he would become agitated when in a really dark queue which at times would put him off riding a ride. Thankfully as he got used to dark queues as the holiday went on, this became less of an issue.
- Plan those down days too. We found because of trying to work around his nap time, we spent longer in the parks then we have on previous trips so we were as worn out as he was.
- If our son wanted to ride something (usually the mini coasters), he wanted to ride it there and then. He didn稚 want to queue and would often tell us 祖ome on and point to the ride vehicle, so pick your queues - like I知 sure we all would do anyway.

Onto the parks more as a whole now - I know my audience on a Disney forum, however I知 still going to be honest and telling you about how I/we feel. I知 not trying to change your outlook or thoughts, just telling you our experience.

I値l start with Disney:

- Epcot is the new construction site. Boards up everywhere. Because of this, it felt even busier than it probably was and it was certainly busy to start with. We joined the virtual queue for Ratatouille and the return time was over 6 hours away - We didn稚 bother waiting. I know for a lot of people Epcot is their favourite park, it certainly isn稚 for us and there was nothing we saw on this trip to move it off the bottom position of my Disney parks list. Club Cool is back and with some new flavours - some are really nice and there痴 one that tastes just like BBQ sauce. Then there痴 Beverley We didn稚 stay for Harmonious, but it痴 an eyesore during the day. The opposite is true for Spaceship Earth at night - it痴 beautiful! Going to Epcot was ticking a box for us. We did it once and that was enough. We cancelled our park reservation for our second visit later in the holiday and I didn稚 regret that decision in the slightest.
- Animal Kingdom is our favourite park and remains so. It also lives up to the tradition of being hot and humid every time we visit. Flight of Passage is still one of my favourite rides (and still the favourite for my wife) and we had really good experiences with all the animals. Everything about AK I love. The atmosphere, especially in Africa, we all loved. The only thing I would say is it could do with a couple more attractions reopening to make it a full day experience. This is the park I値l miss next year, but more on that shortly.
- Hollywood Studios was really busy every time we visited. Really, really busy. Rise of the Resistance was a 4 hour wait on one of the days, so needless to say, I didn稚 ride it that day, but managed to catch it on 80 minutes (but only waited 35 mins!) another day - it broke down near the end, so managed to get another ride on it later in the day too. I知 not a Star Wars fan (not through dislike, just not watched any since I was a kid), but still loved the land, so I can only imagine how amazing it壇 be for a Star Wars fan. The new Mickey ride is (and I知 sure I値l get some hate for this) a better attraction than The Great Movie Ride, but much like the other parks, not all the attractions/experiences are back fully open since COVID - that excuse is really getting boring now.
- Magic Kingdom became a different park for us on this trip. Rather than riding the 僧ountains back to back, it became Speedway to Barnstorm to Dumbo, but our son loved it, so we loved it. The new fireworks, all though certainly not Happily Ever After, were really good. I do find it interesting that Disney have all these COVID announcements and make you were a mask in side a shop that has a few people on it, but will shout at anyone not filling in every little gap on Main Street as the show is about to begin - Thousands and thousands of people all unmasked, even outside, surely that痴 hypocritical. The same goes for waiting areas in the theatres. Still no real parades in MK which is an absolute joke in my opinion. No parking lot trams. Again, really busy, even avoiding weekends and holidays.

Overall, we enjoyed Disney, but did we feel it was good value for money? No. Far from it. Lightening Lane makes you feel like a second class citizen and I found it really frustrating - let me give you an example. We were queuing for Space Ranger Spin in MK before the fireworks one night. We joined the 45 minute queue at 18:25 which should have given us plenty of time to find a good spot for the fireworks after. At 19:50, we had to leave the line otherwise we壇 have missed the fireworks - and we weren稚 the only ones frustrated and leaving the line. At one point, I literally counted over 100 lightening lane guests getting on before a single standby guest.

I know this is down to guests as much as Disney, but the toilets were always left in such a state that I found myself cleaning them myself before I壇 let our son go to the toilet - whilst at Universal this was the exception to the norm.

Everything seemed really crowded, the experiences cut back and yet everything was more expensive. Rides seemed to be down more often than I ever remember - one day we spent 3 hours in Hollywood Studios and rode nothing as Cars was down (the main reason we went!), Aerosmith broke down with my wife on and Rise was also down until just as we were leaving - that痴 $25 parking I知 never getting back!

Disney days just seemed more stress compared to Universal and ultimately, more hassle than it痴 worth for the price we have/will be paying going forward.

Like I said, we had some good experiences and enjoyed Disney, but we致e decided to give Disney a miss on next years trip which is something I never thought I壇 be doing on a Florida trip - Especially with such a young child, but I really don稚 think what we致e experienced (as much as I知 glad we致e done it and wouldn稚 take that back) is worth paying/saving 」200 every month, for the 3 of us to add Disney and a car onto our trip next year. I知 a firm believer of action rather than words. The only thing Disney seem to care about at the minute is money, so I値l make sure the other parks get it rather then the 僧ouse.

We値l be back the year after if things look to be heading in the right direction and then we値l have to decide if we go back to the annual WDW trip or not.

Now onto Universal:

- Islands of Adventure: VelociCoaster is amazing! My new favourite coaster and Hagrids isn稚 half bad either! The crowds at all the Universal parks were generally lower than Disney so made for a more enjoyable experience. Early Park Admission was in IoA so we found ourselves doing both the above coaster before day guests were even allowed into the parks. The Grinch Christmas show in the closed Blue Man theatre was great as was the FREE Christmas events as a whole in Universal parks. It痴 fantastic how much extra you get included for free at Universal Orlando Resort which is the opposite to what Disney seem to be doing.
- Universal Studios: The highlight of this park for me is normally HHN, but since that wasn稚 an option with going in November, the star become the Christmas celebrations and Macy痴 parade. I also really liked the Bourne show which is something I wasn稚 expecting. Diagon Alley is something all of us have come to know and love and I generally found the kids play areas to be to a high standard at Universal. F&F reopened whilst we were there after it痴 short closure and it痴 still as bad as I remembered. I also managed to get one last ride in on Shrek before it closes for good in January 2022. As with IoA, US is pretty much back to normal from a COVID prospective which some may find daunting whilst others will find more pleasant.
- Volcano Bay: A water park I致e grown to love more and more every trip after not been that amazed the first time we came in 2017. The kids area is the best I致e ever seen in a water park and being only a 5 minute walk away meant some days we nipped in for an hour or two rather than going to the hotel pool.

My overall thoughts on November is if you can come before the Thanksgiving week, it痴 not a bad time to come if you池e not wanting weather that痴 too hot. Most days we池e around mid 20痴. If it was blue skies, it felt warm. If it was cloudy, it just felt 創ice. I did however notice that when it rains, it seems to be for hours rather than just a quick shower. From the Saturday before Thanksgiving however, the crowds are awful - I haven稚 been in the summer since I was a child to compare, but these last few days we haven稚 ridden much in the parks. For us, we値l be booking September again next year - much lower crowds and a lot more blue sky and weather that痴 better for round the pool.

Now onto the journey back

I purchased our return day 2 tests through Qured as they had a 20% off Black Friday deal and the email arrived instantly with the codes needed to complete our Passenger Locator Forms within 48 hours of arrival into the UK.

The PFL form is simple enough to do, however each adult must complete an individual form. Children can be added to one of the adults form which makes it a little quicker than it could have been. All in all, it took about 10 minutes to complete the day before we flew home.

After a quick morning in Universal, it was fine to head back to MCO via Voodoo Doughnuts, Target, Denny痴 (for some last minute pancakes for my wife and son) and filling the car with petrol.

We arrived at the airport around 3 hours before our scheduled departure time and made the short walk from the Dollar car drop parking garage to check in which is on level 3 at MCO. I thought the airport was going to be hectic with people making last minute trips home for Thanksgiving, however that wasn稚 the case.

When entering the check in queue, our PLF QR codes and COVID vaccination documents were checked, so keep these to hand. The whole check in process took around 30 minutes due to a length queue with some of the check in agents being pretty strict with people sticking to their baggage weight allowance. We were 2KG over on one bag, but weren稚 forced to repack as the other two backs were about 5KG under each. It痴 a good job as all the bags were full to the brim.

After a brief stop in the Disney and Universal shops seeing all the merch we壇 seen over and over again in the last two weeks, it was time to head through security where our son decided to have the worst melt down he痴 had ever. Thankfully the queue and melt down didn稚 last too long and we were back on monorail for our final 喪ide of the holiday. There were no addition COVID questions asked for us or our son, in fact no talking at all other than asking us to drop our masks to check our passports.

Boarding was called at around 18:15/23:15 which led to around a 20 minute delay and we took off into the Floridian skies at 19:10/00:10 for the 8:10 trip back home.

I知 not going to write much about the flight home as it was a standard overnight flight.

The aircraft was still pretty dirty from its inbound flight from London which when combined with the dated A330, it wasn稚 the best image of Virgin Atlantic I致e seen. The toilets at the back of the plane are also the tiniest I致e seen - as per my previous post, use the toilet on the left hand side of the aircraft around row 40 if you can as it痴 much larger in row.

We were seated in row 61 which is the first set of the seats in the middle that go to 3 across rather than 4. As we had the window, isle and all the middle seats, it meant we had 5 seats between us for the journey home. Overall the load for the flight seemed to be around 2/3痴 which I found quite strange as all though we壇 stayed longer than 14 days, it would have only been the third day that foreign travel was allowed back into the US for other passengers who stayed for 14 days, so I expected the flight to be full.

Meal choices were pasta or teriyaki chicken, or in my case; pasta or nothing. I opted for nothing. I知 not even sure what breakfast was as it didn稚 look or smell appealing so it went straight in the bin. Flights back to the UK from the US always struggle with food in my opinion and it痴 always breakfast that is the weakest meal.

After a sunrise landing, we arrived at Manchester Airport at 08:22 and a cool -1ーc.

Immigration was pretty empty and your PLF is linked to your passport so you don稚 need to show the QR code.

With our bags, we got the lift and headed up to T2 departures to make the exact walk (but in the opposite direction) 2.5 weeks earlier. How different it was then to now

I know this last post isn稚 the most exciting and doesn稚 have much to update you on, however I wanted to finish the post and confirm the couple of details at the start of the post for those with trips in the future.

Thank you once again to everyone who痴 taken the time to read the posts, comment in the thread and generally helped to try and prepare others for their upcoming trips.

I値l finish the post with a few pictures from my trip - I hope you all have safe and enjoyable trips!

Instagram & YouTube: TwoAndThreeQuartersUK
Previous Trips: 1995, 2000, 2004, 2015/16, 2017, 2018 x2, 2021 & 2022.
Next Trip: September 2022 - Loews Royal Pacific.
My experience on US borders opening day: php?t=1207820

Edited at 06:22 PM.
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Old 8 Nov 21, 06:21 AM  
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Location: Merseyside
Reading this with excitement, I hope your journey goes smoothly and you and your family have an amazing holiday.😀
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Old 8 Nov 21, 06:30 AM  
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Apprentice Imagineer
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Bon Voyage and thanks for taking us with you every step of the way
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Old 8 Nov 21, 06:38 AM  
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This is amazing info thanks! Please update with post arrival test for your son too!

Have an amazing time!
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