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Unread 30 Dec 19, 01:18 PM  
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spencem
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Silver Anniversary Trip, January 2020

Background

Once again the blame for this trip can be laid at my sister’s door due to her finding yet more ‘bargain flights’. This time timed to coincide with my 25th wedding anniversary in January 2020. To be fair we have been saying for a while that we’d either do a big Florida holiday for our anniversary or our 50th birthdays the following year. It turned out my sister didn’t want to leave it the extra year and so Silver Anniversary trip it is.

The Cast
I guess you’ve gathered by now that despite this being our anniversary trip my wife and I are not permitted to travel alone and so my sister and her husband need to come along as chaperones. Thankfully they were not coming for the full three weeks, but their time with us has expanded in the last couple of months. Missing this trip is our son, at 24 he has decided to take a year off from travelling with his parents. Although that is probably more down to a long period of sickness this year and the resulting hole in his savings as much as anything else. Like so many of his generation he's struggling to afford to move out and so took the sensible decision to not splash out on a long holiday. Although we’ll miss him this saves us paying a pet sitter, so every cloud has a silver lining.

The 4 of us this time are,
Myself, Spencem, Martin, 48
My wife, Anglemouse5, Julia, 49
My sister, Happy Bunny, Sandra, 60
My Brother-in-Law, Brian, a bit more than 60

As you can see I’m the youngest on the trip, with it falling between mine and Julia’s birthdays, not that I’ll remind her at all that she’s a year older than me for those few weeks.

Here Julia and I are on our wedding day way back in 1995.


And slightly more recently on our 2016 holiday.

There are no romantic pictures from our 2018 week only trip, we were far too busy for that sort of thing.

Sandra and Brian when they were last with us in Orlando in 2016.


Accommodation
Pay attention, there will be a test at the end, this gets complicated.
Friday January 10th, Crowne Plaza Gatwick.
Saturday January 11th – Wednesday January 15th, Royal Pacific Resort at Universal.
Wednesday January 15th – Friday January 17th, Staybridge Suites SeaWorld.
Friday January 17th – Sunday January 26th, Port Orleans French Quarter.
Sunday January 26th – Saturday February 1st, Holiday Inn Resort Orange Lakes.

Why all those hotels I hear you ask, well a few reasons and again my sister is to blame for most of it. Way back in February when those bargain flights first appeared Julia and I said we’d like to be in Florida for our actual anniversary and Julia’s birthday on January 12th and that we’d be going for a full three weeks. Sandra and Brian said they couldn’t afford the three week’s leave and so would only join us for the Disney portion, if free dining happened again and a ‘bargain’ could be found. Fast forward to when Disney released dining in late April and Sandra booked their stay slap bang in the middle of our three weeks, with an awkward 6 days either side. She couldn’t have booked at the beginning or the end, oh no, right in the middle was where she needed to be. So, with the Disney part of our trip set we then filled in around it.

We wanted to do the onsite thing at Universal, as much for the relaxed walk to the parks as the Front of the Line passes in January but couldn’t stretch to a full 6 days. We’ve booked 4 days on the annual pass holder discount rate (£199 a night) and then filled the gap with the two nights at the Staybridge Suites. Originally I simply booked this as somewhere we could get a suite on reward points. It was only reading the latest Brits Guide months later that I realised staying here gives us all sorts of perks at SeaWorld, like Front of the Line passes that we won’t need in January and discounts on food, drink and merchandise that we defiantly will take advantage of.

I travel a lot for work and earn around half a million reward points with IHG a year, so their hotels were always going to be our destinations of choice since I don’t pay. We have stayed at Orange Lakes back in 2018 and were really impressed with it, especially for free. Bizarrely the only rooms they offer as reward nights are their two-bedroom condos and so despite there only going to be two of us I booked one of those for our post Disney 6 nights.

The single night at Gatwick we added just this week, again on reward points, having seen all the heartache caused by the flooding on the M23 just before Christmas. We can now take a relaxed drive down Friday night after rush hour and then just drive around the corner in the morning to drop the car off.

Car Hire
We booked an SUV with Avis through BA, turning our flights into a package and meaning we didn’t have to pay the full balance until November. Julia uses an ECV in the parks due to a back condition that stops her standing for long periods or walking long distances, so we book an SUV as it is easier to load in and out without the boot lip. As it turned out Julia is now sharing the ECV with my mother who uses it over here in the UK and my mother decided to upgrade Julia’s machine to one that folds itself up at the touch of a button to about the size of a suitcase, so we could have booked a small car after all.

Flights
In a first for us we are booked with BA this time, simply because they were offering some very low January prices back at the beginning of the year. We paid a bit more for ours than Sandra as we wanted baggage and then added a car, but I think the flight only element was about £500 for the two of us including bags and meals. Julia is booked as an assistance passenger and will take her ECV with her.
Using BA’s lowest version of economy and a chunk of Avios Sandra managed to pay £250 for both her and Brian (not each) return!
Fast forward to November and Julia sadly lost her mother, leaving a very small inheritance (thanks care fees, we wouldn’t have known what to do with that house mother-in-law worked all her life to pay for anyway). There wasn’t much, but it was just about enough to pay for us to upgrade to BA’s version of Premium Economy, World Traveller Plus. At least now Julia has got something to remember from her mum. We’ll both be saying thank you to her from our slightly larger seats over the Atlantic.

Parking
We have three weeks’ worth of meet and great booked with Maple Manor via TopCashBack and Looking4 Parking for £75, less £20 cashback. Since I often pay £50 a day to park in central London, I don’t think £55 for three weeks is a bad price at all.

Tickets
Our Disney tickets are with them as we booked a free dining package. For Universal I worked out a pair of annual passes are cheaper than 14 day tickets with the discounts you get in resort and off of the hotel price. We have one of the lowest tier Seasonal Passes and one of the slightly higher Preferred Passes booked to give the discounts since only one of you needs this to qualify.

For our Seaworld and Busch tickets we used Attraction Tickets Direct, or just Attraction Tickets as the now are since they’ve always given us great service and their price was around the same as everyone else.

My parents have brought all 4 of us Kennedy Space Centre tickets for our Christmas presents this year. We are going to try GatorLand for the first time this year, on the way back to the airport, but may well just pay on the gate with any remaining cash we might have.

ADRs
Sandra sorted our ADRs out since she was at home on the 180 day lunchtime and got everything we wanted with only a little cursing at her laptop. A couple have been tweaked since for times as park hours have changed and may well get tweaked again if the mood takes us. The current list has us eating at, Tusker House (with RoL seating), Yachtsman Steakhouse, Boatwright’s, Tiffins, Be Our Guest Lunch (they messed up breakfast and were rude at dinner in 2016, but apparently we need to experience their full repertoire), Paridiso 37, Teppan Edo, Mama Melrose (with Fantasmic seating) and Oga’s Cantina (I know there isn’t any actual food). We were hoping to eat at the new Space 220 restaurant in Epcot and would have swapped it with Teppan Edo, but the opening date has been pushed back to February at least.

FastPasses
It was me at home on FastPass day and with only minor cursing at web sites and apps I was able to secure everything we wanted at almost the times we wanted. I started just booking the headline rides at the end of our trip and even doing that there was no Flight of Passage to be had for our first few days. I’m happy to say I was able to secure us a couple of rides at almost sensible times for the last few days. Once I had the FoP, Slinky Dog and Frozen FP’s locked in I went back and filled in the other stuff. We could have started booking FP for our last 6 days off site in Orlando on Boxing Day, but we’ve not bothered. If we do end up going into Disney on any of those days we’ll just see what we can get on the day or if we’re super organised maybe the night before.

Changes of Plan
Well so far Julia and I have added the night before’s hotel, upgraded our flights and made an expensive call to our travel insurance company to tell them about my new blood pressure pills. The really big changes have been on Sandra and Brian’s side. Brian has had a bit of a health scare this year and needed some major surgery. The bright side of this is that with test results and his surgery outcome they went from fearing they would have to drop out altogether to Brian still being signed off sick for the last week of our trip and so them taking that spare room in our Condo at Orange Lakes. Better to be recuperating in sunny Orlando than cold damp Bedfordshire. His doctors were not just happy for him to travel but were very pleased he had something booked to aim for and delighted with the idea of him getting a couple of weeks winter sun. When they called to change their flights home they discovered that because they had those bottom tier economy flights booked the admin fees were rather high, but delighted to discover they could be avoided by upgrading to World Traveller Plus for only a few pounds more. All four of us are in the WTP cabin on the way home, but probably not together. While Julia is a bit of a nervous flyer and insisted we pay BA their outrageous seat booking fees Sandra and Brian have taken the much more sensible approach of making sure they check-in online exactly 24 hours in advance of their flights.

Day by Day

Jan 10th Travel to Gatwick
Jan 11th Travel to Orlando
Jan 12th Universal Orlando
Jan 13th Universal Orlando
Jan 14th Universal Orlando
Jan 15th Travel to SeaWorld
Jan 16th SeaWorld
Jan 17th Epcot, Sandra and Brian arrive
Jan 18th Animal Kingdom, Tusker House, Magic Kingdom evening
Jan 19th Magic Kingdom, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Hollywood Studios Extra Magic Hours
Jan 20th Hollywood Studios morning, Boatwright’s, Magic Kingdom After Hours
Jan 21st Animal Kingdom morning, Tiffins, EPCOT evening Extra Magic Hours
Jan 22nd Magic Kingdom, Be Our Guest, evening Extra Magic Hours
Jan 23rd Animal Kingdom. Paradiso 37
Jan 24th EPCOT, Behind the Seeds, Teppan Edo
Jan 25th Hollywood Studios, Mama Melrose, Fantasmic
Jan 26th Hollywood Studios, Oga’s Cantina, move to Orange Lakes
Jan 27th Busch Gardens
Jan 28th SeaWorld
Jan 29th Busch Gardens
Jan 30th Kennedy Space Centre
Jan 31st Universal
Feb 1st GatorLand and Fly home
Feb 2nd Get home

At least that’s the plan at the moment, check back to the index over the coming weeks as the days above change to links to show what we actually did those days.

Edited at 01:24 PM.
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Unread 31 Dec 19, 10:36 AM  
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Ha ha lovr thr 'blame the sister' move... I am hopeful that one day I will get my sisters to agree a trip to Florida let a lone to be able to blame them for finding the flights
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Unread 31 Dec 19, 11:17 AM  
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spencem
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Originally Posted by 3disneykids View Post
Ha ha lovr thr 'blame the sister' move... I am hopeful that one day I will get my sisters to agree a trip to Florida let a lone to be able to blame them for finding the flights
All my Florida trips have been my sister's fault and I often thank her for it.
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Unread 1 Jan 20, 12:30 AM  
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Originally Posted by spencem View Post
All my Florida trips have been my sister's fault and I often thank her for it.
Ha ha my DH blames me and I blame him we are both thankful for doing it rather than thinking it

Hopefully one day I can convert my sisters
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Unread 1 Jan 20, 11:28 AM  
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It sounds like you've got a great trip planned for your anniversary. I'm glad your brother in laws health problems seem to be sorted out and that he can travel with you all.

Have a fun trip, not long now and you'll be off to the airport.
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Unread 1 Jan 20, 11:36 AM  
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Originally Posted by Goldia View Post
It sounds like you've got a great trip planned for your anniversary. I'm glad your brother in laws health problems seem to be sorted out and that he can travel with you all.

Have a fun trip, not long now and you'll be off to the airport.
Thanks, not long now at all.
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Unread 1 Jan 20, 09:41 PM  
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Originally Posted by 3disneykids View Post
Hopefully one day I can convert my sisters
I managed to convert one brother but not the other

Originally Posted by Goldia View Post
It sounds like you've got a great trip planned for your anniversary. I'm glad your brother in laws health problems seem to be sorted out and that he can travel with you all.
I'm the sister and whilst my husband is improving, recovery is going to take many months. We are pleased to be able to travel with them but this trip will be much more leisurely and we will be celebrating being alive and living life to the full
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