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Old 11 Apr 19, 09:28 AM  
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The Fatadder
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Join Date: Jan 13
4 Swim with Dolphins - delayed to Aug 21

Edit: Post Covid 19 Planning starts on page 2 post 10...

I shouldn’t be writing this yet, we were not supposed to be going back until October 2021 or May 2022 when our youngest will be over 5 and tall enough to ride a lot more.

However a chance conversation with my parents while on holiday in Spain the day before the free DDP promotion was announced has seen the timescale bought forward.

The main reason for this was Imogen starting school in September 21. While we have a 2 week half term in October which minimises the time out of school, thinking back to how tired Evie was after her first half term of school Imogen needs a rest in Oct 21 not a manic trip to Florida.

So that leaves us with three potential times, May, Aug or Oct 20.
May was rejected as its only a 1 week half term as ideally we would like a 3 week holiday and that would mean 2 weeks out of school. In addition Imogen would only be 3 and a half, and likely between 1 and 2 inches shorter.

August has the down side of extra heat, more rain and more humidity. It’s also budget setting time at work (although to be honest it feels like that drags on most of the autumn as well), which may impact on the ability to get that third week. She would be a month short of her 4th birthday.

October was the ideal choice, with the 2 weeks of half term plus the week before (the benefits of private schooling). It also gets me back in time for month end. The weather is cooler and drier, and less risk of hurricanes. There is a massive down side in that this year the free dining promotion ends on October 3rd, so potentially the cost will go up massively when factoring in the cost of DDP.

What do we want from the trip:
The core of the holiday will be 2 weeks with my wife and I plus our two daughters (who will be 6.5 and 4 in October), along with my parents and brother + sister in law. In addition we want some extra time on our own at the start of the holiday, we have found the children struggled to deal with the change after they left last time (when we tagged 3 days onto the end of the trip). It will also make for a lovely surprise when nanny and granddad turn up unannounced in Florida.

As ever it needs to be on site accommodation, with a big preference towards a 1 bed and a 2 bed delux villa resort (likely to be OKW but depending on price the other villa resorts would be very tempting.)

We will certainly need more than 2 weeks to fit in everything we want, with lots of repeat visits to the Disney parks plus both water parks. 3 days at Universal to do both parks plus a first visit to Volcano Bay, SeaWorld, Acquitica and a first return to Bush Gardens since 2014. The plan is to do a dolphin swim at Discovery cove for Evie and I (hopefully with Helen able to bring Imogen in for the photo at the end). There will possibly even a visit to Kennedy. As I say, it’s really looking like being a 3 week trip...

I am pricing up various options, both booking with DDP (Free and paid for) and booking direct and via rented DVC points. Potentially even a split stay between onsite and a villa, though I’d prefer not to.

To compound it is the week before the holiday, getting DDP coverage for the first week without having to pay for a 2 bed for the extra week which will be out of budget. I like the idea of a week in a different resort...

First of all I need to talk to work and see exactly how long I can manage to get away from work. Along with getting the pricing spreadsheet up and running to see how it fits into the budget.

There will be a lot more planning to come (while I hope the trip doesn’t slip back into 2021)

Edited at 04:09 PM.
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Old 11 Apr 19, 01:35 PM  
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The Fatadder
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Join Date: Jan 13

Who’s going

Me, working in Finance, funder of trips, maker of spreadsheets, will potentially have my 36th birthday during the trip depending on when we travel.

Helen, in charge of arranging ADRs and FPs, sorting out the girls many many Disney dresses and ensuring

Evie, currently 5 going on 15 and will be 6 when we travel.
Loves reading, princesses and posing (unless there is a camera present). Can’t wait for the rollercoasters, and hoping for a growth spurt. Her favourite character changes daily...

Imogen, will be travelling either one month before or after her forth birthday (after being in Florida for her first birthday). Loves her food, Olaf and more food. Hates the camera... hopefully will be tall enough for Splash / Thunder...

This will be family trip no 4, my 8th trip, Helen’s 6th, Evie’s 4th and Imogen’s 2nd.
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Old 11 Apr 19, 04:59 PM  
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The Fatadder
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Unless it turns out to be crazy expensive we will be flying Virgin or BA, given I don’t fancy the 3 4 3 arrangement on a 777 I would prefer to go Virgin (especially in the slim chance they have started flying A350). But I suspect the fact we have a ton of points to burn with BA will swing the decision.

As usual our plan will be to use Disney buses wherever possible, and certainly will be taking the Magical Express to and from the airport.
A hire car will be needed for a big part of the holiday to get to Universal, Busch etc. So we will be needing a return of the trusty 8 seat full size SUV we had in 2017. At the moment rates for a years time are a lot higher than I’d like so hopefully will fall by the time we book...
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Old 24 Apr 19, 10:42 AM  
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The Fatadder
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Accommodation thoughts:
Back in 2017 we paid £8.5k for a 2 bed villa at OKW for 18 nights with free dining plan and tickets.
For 2020 it is clear things are going to be a lot more expensive, with the combination of the falling value of Sterling, Disney adding a 25$ a day parking fee in resorts and the fact that there is no free dining for October. However I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as bad as it is looking, with ATD quoting 16.5k for the same!

As a result, I am preparing 3 options, a price for a moderate (3 rooms) at CCR, a price for 3 studios at a DVC resort and a price for a studio plus a 2 bed at a DVC resort. Everything will be priced for August and October (depending on the response I get to my holiday request), and for the latter two options a price direct and a price via Dave’s DVC Rentals.

Which moderate to look at was a tough decision between Coronado Springs and Port Orleans. CSR looks to have much nicer rooms, and better facilities in general (more akin to a Deluxe lite). But PO has that closeness to Disney Springs. In the end the extra space and food & drink options on site + the Pool mean that it will be CSR that we price up as a moderate.

It had looked to be a coin toss between Old Key West or Saratoga Springs (both of which we have stayed in previously). And if we end up booking directly with Disney this will likely still be the case (based on availability at release). However should we go down the DVC rental route, I am tempted to have a look at the Boardwalk Villas (which are available at a similar price to OKW).

So far I have been updating my planning spreado, with prices taken from ATD (which look fairly comparable to DTC prices). Dave’s DVC Rentals was used to price the DVC options, while the dining plan prices and Disney tickets were lifted off the official website. For flights I have used the available Thomas Cook info, which I think should be within £200 of BA or Virgin.
Booking direct August is looking to be approximately £3k cheaper than October (that is comparing Room + Dining + Flights, less the 10% discount on Room.) However when comparing a DVC rental, October is circa 3k cheaper than August. While 3 studios can be had at OKW for a similar price to 3 rooms at CSR.
All this said the price is still coming in at a scary large number, so I am going to start some contingency planning for half onsite and half off. Roll on tomorrow and being able to start crunching some real prices (although of course that doesn’t really help with OKW!)
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Old 5 May 19, 10:45 PM  
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Well that has been a difficult couple of weeks.

First of all the prices being quoted were a lot higher than we were expecting, so there has been lots of back and forth planning trying to work out the optimal way of arranging the holiday. The loss of free dining for October (coupled with the need to try and keep the time the girls are out of school as low as possible) has made things a lot more difficult.

In the end we settled on a split stay, with a week in Port Orleans French Quarter which may yet be upgraded to OKW depending on the price differential followed by a week in a villa. I have currently increased our part of the holiday to 10 days on site so that we get a repeat of last time's 18 days. This ensures that we get the required Disney time whilst still managing to get to Busch, Kennedy and Universal.

Tonight I booked the Disney part of the trip (via Quidco of course), so now have 1 room for 10 nights from the 10th October and 2 rooms for 7 nights from the 14th. Including park tickets and full dining plan.

Villa research is progressing and we are down to a shortlist of 3 Dibb villas, which are now with my parents & brother for review.

This has all needed a couple more changes to the plan, first of all for car hire, we will not bother with a car at all until check out day (at which point the plan is to go to the park (leaving our bags in storage at the resort), pick up the cars and then drive to the villa.

Of course this will need a different approach to the planning, with the intention to cover off all major Disney attractions in week 1 to take advantage of the 60 day fast passes. 2 days at Universal, a day at SW, DC and Busch, + a day at Kennedy in the second week. (This may still be cut back, depending on whether or not we keep the booking for the extra days).

We all agreed that there is no way one car in a villa will work, so we will have to get one each. So having satisfied the need for a giant SUV on the last trip, I fancy having a Mustang / Camaro.
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Old 7 May 19, 10:02 PM  
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I can't believe how big the girls are now, I remember Evie being a baby!
Your plans look great, I can't believe how much Disney are charging for a 2 bed villa . POFQ looks like a lovely resort though.
Looking forward to hearing about any updates!
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Old 4 Jul 19, 04:11 PM  
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The Fatadder
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After weeks of 'discussion' back and forth with the others who are travelling we finally got the villa shortlist down to two options, one at Reunion and the other at Emerald Island. I preferred the former, the majority preferred the latter so last night we booked at Emerald Island for the final week.

We have gone for a large 6 bedroom villa, which should give ample space for 6 adults and 2 children.

That's it for now, until planning starts picking up pace in the autumn when flights and car hire is ready for booking (and we start having to finalise our decisions on extras). At the moment the extras list is looking very long (Including MNSSHP, a dolphin experience at SeaWorld for Imogen, the Shamu experience that we had booked in 2017 but was cancelled by Irma, Kennedy Space Centre, Giraffe feeding at Busch and various others.)

The restaurant list is also coming along (and far exceeds the number of days on dining plan), but slimming that down is a job for next year once they release the 2020 DDP list.
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Old 27 Oct 19, 10:05 PM  
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The Fatadder
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This is being posted a little later than originally planned...

It is now under a year until we travel (actually it is a year tomorrow and we will be flying home )

As a result its time to get on with cranking the planning up a notch.

The next few weeks should see both flights and car hire booked, along with a start being made on the plans for dining. Given Quidco have now paid out, my intention is to take the money and buy some dollars (though I think I will wait for the Brexit extension to be signed first)...

Flights are moving on, BA will be available in a fortnight, while its a month until Norwegian / Virgin are released. At the moment my hope is for a decent price on the "Delight" seats with the latter, though it will be interesting to see how much more premium will be with Norwegian.

The initial car hire booking will be placed soon (though of course no doubt it will be cancelled and rebooked several times as the price falls). Right now I am looking at £250 for a Premium car, 220 for a std SUV and £400 for a full size SUV. £295 for a Mustang is looking very tempting, though the lack of luggage space will no doubt kill it off. If the others end up with a full size for the 4 of them (as is quite likely), I suppose we could end up putting the majority of our luggage in their car on the last day...

Moving on, Today we have been at Disney on Ice at Westpoint in Exeter. It gives the girls a taster of what is to come (and me a taster of paying through the nose for overpriced souvenirs and food...) Still a great day was had by all.

Edited at 10:08 PM.
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Old 9 Dec 19, 10:42 AM  
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With under 11 months to go until we travel, we have got the final important part of the puzzle booked, the flights! Given I harbour an intense dislike of BA’s 10 abreast seating layout in their refurbished 777s, I had been waiting for Virgin to release their flights (almost a month after BA released theirs). In the end we have managed to book 4 seats in Economy Delight for slightly less than we had budgeted for economy. The fact that includes priority boarding and “free” seat selection (that I would have really missed now that my BA status has expired) was a nice extra, for me its all about getting that little bit of extra leg room!

Remaining tickets were purchased from FloridaTix during their Black Friday sale (for Universal / Discovery Cove Ultimates).

So that now just leaves the car, for which there is still something of a debate as to what exactly we are going to order. The problem is that a “premium Full Size” SUV to guaranty 8 seats is silly money at the moment (almost twice the price of a full size), and I can only get my Mustang if we have the large suv..

I have started pulling together a plan, mostly because I needed a plan as to when we would go to Discovery Cove. So from the available data this is the plan:

Travel day
Magic Kingdom
Hollywood Studios
Magic Kingdom
Animal Kingdom
Magic Kingdom
Water Park
Magic Kingdom / Epcot
Epcot / Hollywood Studios (then move to the villa)
Islands of Adventure / Volcano Bay
Discovery Cove / (likely followed by either SeaWorld or Islands of Adventure in the evening)
Islands of Adventure
Busch Gardens
Universal Studios
Seaworld (half day) then fly home

Some of the disney days are likely to change a little, as I think we probably have a little too much Magic Kingdom), but that will likely end up multi park days. The one dissapointment is that we have managed to hit Columbus Day weekend right at the start of the holiday. MK on our first day is the recommended park (but crowd levels are listed as a 7!) Wish I had paid more attention to the dates, as we could have flown out and back a day later and avoided the crowds. Still, hopefully an early start will get some rides done before it gets too busy.
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Old 21 Apr 20, 02:06 PM  
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The Fatadder
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Despite all of the current corona virus disruption, for the time being at least we are still planning as though the trip is going to go ahead.
The current logic is that if we can get into the states and the parks are open we will still be travelling. Should Virgin Atlantic go under and we are left without flights, we will probably look to differ the trip until May 21 (but that would require a week and a half out of school not the single week we currently have) or potentially next October. One advantage is that having paid OOP for the dining plan on our booking we wont be constrained to any DDP dates next year should we have to delay.

My biggest worry right now is that Virgin are still flying, but the parks are closed (or open to a very limited extent without a lot of the magic) in which case we would want to delay but may not be able to.

The other impact has been to the budget, We had already had the news pre CV19 that there would be no bonus company wide this year. Post CV19 my wife is self employed and due to last years tax return being the start up year (with a lot of one off expenses) the income under the government's scheme will be a lot lower than expected. The net result of all this is that while the core holiday costs are allowed for (the remaining payments for the villa and Disney), or already sunk (flights, tickets), the budget for the extras is going to take a hammering. So some of the planned additional ADRs and experiences at SeaWorld / Discovery cove are going to fall by the wayside. Assuming we do manage to go in October the plan is still to do MNSSHP, but that is next on the chopping block.

It was our ADR day on Easter Monday, and we managed to get the majority of what we wanted. We were unable to get quite as early a slot as we wanted for Be Our Guest breakfast on day 1, while a few of the 8person bookings later in the trip were only available as 4s (usually at this point we would phone Disney direct and sort it out, but clearly in the current environment thats not possible.) Right now the solution has been to book two 4 person ADRs at the same time with the intention of either trying to get the tables next to each other (or ideally getting it converted to an eight.)

Car hire still remains to be booked, something that I need to do something about if the prices look ok...

All in all a very strange feeling to be planning
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