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Old 9 Jan 22, 05:24 PM  
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pho3nix
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A Surprise birthday trip! - This trip - the plans

In August I started to think about Sophie's 40th birthday in December. We had planned a night away with amazing food but we usually do a larger trip for big birthdays and in August travel seemed to be opening up more and more so I thought I would look into planning a trip.

Usually when booking a holiday I like to plan and book everything myself, but with the current pandemic, I felt it would be best to use a travel agent. I'm not going to lie, this was the hardest aspect of planning the trip.

When I started looking, the USA wasn't an option and I looked at many different holiday locations but nothing felt right...thankfully the announcement came that we would be allowed back in the USA and Florida became top of the list! I made a bit of a rookie error and didn't book the amazing deal that I found on BA the night the announcement was made as it wasn't "official" and as soon as it was official, the deal was gone!

I ended up working with Helen at Travel Counsellors and booked to travel on 28th December for 9 nights. Initially this was 10 but the original flight we were looking at was cancelled. We would stay 4 nights at St Pete Beach followed by 5 nights in Orlando at the Hard Rock Hotel. I did find it pretty stressful booking everything with no input from Sophie as I was keeping it a surprise!

I had decided not to book any Disney aspect to the holiday - I had read a lot on the Dibb about the new Lightening Lanes/Genie + and general crowd levels at Christmas so decided that I would stick with only Universal. We did say on our last trip that we preferred the more relaxed approach that Universal with Express Passes provided us.

Once the holiday itself was booked, I also booked the car hire and Universal tickets via Helen. We love rollercoasters so I planned to book Busch Gardens tickets too - I managed to get these in the Black Friday sale. I assumed it would be busy being the week between Christmas and New Year so really wanted to make sure that we had the Quick Queue Option. The Black Friday deal was for tickets plus Quick Queue and All Day Dining for $170 which when I looked at just the cost of Quick Queue was a really good deal. I also pre-booked the parking and with tax this came to around $400 total.

I also booked a meal at The Melting Pot as I knew that this was one of Sophie's favourite restaurants from our last visit.

This was the extent of my planning - I was really conscious that I didn't want to plan too much as I was so nervous of jinxing the holiday - It may sound crazy but I was genuinely worried about it!

I revealed the holiday on Sophie's birthday in December - couple of photos below:









Once revealed, it was so nice to be able to talk about the holiday! We then just needed to apply for our ESTAs (approved) and book the testing. We booked our pre-flight tests with Randox at Manchester Airport for the day before our flight, our fit to fly tests with Chronomics to be delivered prior to travel to pack and take with us and our return PCR tests for our return at Manchester Airport.
We decided that we didn't want to plan too much else and to just go with how we felt while we were there as we hadn't travelled for such a long time!

I don't like to post on my Insta while I am away so if anyone would like to follow along, I will be posting photos/stories etc now that I am back...
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Old 9 Jan 22, 08:36 PM  
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Sparksy72
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What a brilliant birthday surprise! We love St Pete Beach, a lovely way to start your trip. Iím looking forward to seeing how your trip went! 😁
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Old 9 Jan 22, 08:48 PM  
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Goldia
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What a lovely birthday surprise. I hope you had a fun trip and I can't wait to read all about it.
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Disneyland 1993.
DLP 2000, 2019, 2020.
Orlando 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 (cancelled), 2021 (cancelled).


A great big beautiful - Summer 2022 New pre trip report

All my old trip reports click here NYC and Orlando 2017, Salzburg 2017, Boston 2017, Orlando 2018, Berlin 2018, DLP 2019, Orlando 2019, Washington DC 2019, DLP 2020, Jamaica 2021, Rome 2021.
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Old 11 Jan 22, 09:10 PM  
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P&S
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What a lovely surprise I hope you had a fantastic time
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Old 11 Jan 22, 09:25 PM  
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ClaireNJ
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How lovely what a super surprise 🤩
Hope you had a wonderful time
😍
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Old 22 Jan 22, 07:15 AM  
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pho3nix
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Originally Posted by Sparksy72 View Post
What a brilliant birthday surprise! We love St Pete Beach, a lovely way to start your trip. Iím looking forward to seeing how your trip went! 😁
Thank you! We loved it too - would have liked a couple of extra beach days but with only 9 nights we were running short on time!
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Old 22 Jan 22, 07:16 AM  
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pho3nix
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Originally Posted by Goldia View Post
What a lovely birthday surprise. I hope you had a fun trip and I can't wait to read all about it.
Thank you! We really did have an amazing time, it was so nice to leave everyday life and stress and just be warm and in one of our happy places!
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Old 22 Jan 22, 07:17 AM  
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pho3nix
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Originally Posted by P&S View Post
What a lovely surprise I hope you had a fantastic time
Thanks Sue, we really did!
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Old 22 Jan 22, 07:17 AM  
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pho3nix
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Originally Posted by ClaireNJ View Post
How lovely what a super surprise 🤩
Hope you had a wonderful time
😍
Thank you! We had the most amazing trip - as always it just wasn't long enough!
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Old 26 May 22, 12:58 PM  
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80skid
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looking forward to reading your trip report
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