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Old 21 Aug 20, 11:51 AM  
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Andy C
Join Date: Nov 05
The Quest For Toad - The No Queues Trip 2019 - Day 1: "I love it when a plan comes together"

Ever had one of those days where everything went like clockwork?

Me neither – at least, until the 14th of August, 2019. To be fair, a lot of planning went into this, but it was still surprising how well it went.

From 2007-2010 I had a job which involved a lot of travel. Primarily to the US, and primarily on Virgin Atlantic. I therefore accumulated a lot of air miles, many of which I spent in the 2013 trip.

But not all.

And by getting a Virgin Atlantic credit card, I continued accumulating them – which not only kept the legacy miles alive, but added to them. Add in the Tesco Clubcard points that converted to airmiles, and we had a considerable amount of them.

Plan element number one: buy Economy tickets and upgrade them to Upper Class.

I sought advice on the Dibb and mymemories and Jaspercat10 were fantastic for advice - it was pretty much their plan that came together on this phase.

Now, there are six of us, but DD1 and her partner were paying for themselves and a bit more autonomous as a sub-group. I was able to get four seats on VS16 at 1pm from Gatwick and two seats on VS49 at 12pm from Gatwick – so we could travel together to the airport, stay in the lounge together, then Steph and Andrew would board the first flight and jet off, we’d follow an hour later, and catch up with them at Orlando International.

They would also spend an extra week out there and come back on the 4th of September (the rest of us on the 28th of September).

Then we were told that VS49 was rescheduled by over half an hour to take off at 12:35, which was even better.

Return trip-wise, Steph and Andrew had no problems upgrading to Upper... but the rest of us could only get availability in Premium Economy.

Mymemories and Jaspercat10 had advised me this was likely, but that if I booked Premium Economy, odds were that I could upgrade them piecemeal over the following 11 months as more UC reward flights got released. A gamble, but the nice lady on the phone at Virgin Flying Club agreed that it was very possible and worth a shot, emphasising that Upper Class Rewards Availability constantly changed throughout the year.

I was able to upgrade DW in December and set up an alert on RewardFlightFinder. By May, I’d lost hope, but an alert flashed up and I managed to upgrade DD2. Just DS and myself left. And, later that same day, two more seats in Upper! I grabbed them and we were all sorted both ways.

And then, of course, with enough miles still left, I had to get the chauffeur service, really.

So, the day rolled around, and, at 7 am on the dot, the doorbell rang and two cars were outside, smartly suited chauffeurs with umbrellas held over us to keep the rain off as we were escorted out to our vehicles. My nephew had arrived on the previous weekend to housesit and look after our pets; we bade farewell to him and were whisked off down the A34, M4, and M25.

There was a bit of traffic, but we were expecting that, and arrived at Gatwick within minutes of my previously estimated time. Into the terminal and over to the Upper Class desks, where they opened extra ones because there was almost a need to queue. Cheerful service, bags taken and boarding cards issued, while Steph and Andrew discovered the free ice-cream for Upper Class passengers (to make the few minutes wait for your boarding card go faster…).

Through priority security in a few more minutes with no hassle, and we were searching for the lounge.
This was the only slightly difficult part of the day. Wandering through the Gatwick duty free maze, we finally emerged slightly wild-eyed on the other side, having avoided the perfumes, alcohol, and absurdly large toblerones, to start tracking down the lounge. I confidently strode off to the right, before DW called me back and pointed to the sign for the Virgin Clubhouse. Over to the left.

We got there and it was amazing.

Immediate breakfasts all round, with cocktails for the adults.

I had a game of pool with Xander and then Andrew.

The girls all went to the spa.

The staff pressed a very early “afternoon tea” on us, and by the time Steph and Andrew tore themselves away for their priority boarding, I’d had three breakfasts and three cocktails.

(The Virgin Redhead was good, the Bramble was okay, but the best of them was “Grey Goose La Poire vodka and rhubarb cordial” which was every bit as nice as it sounded). I called a halt after three cocktails, because I didn’t want to be woozy for the flight and I had to drive on the other side (which was, to be fair, more than ten or eleven hours away).

Steph and Andrew’s flight was delayed by 15 minutes, which was ideal for us – they’d be waiting for us for even less time on the other side. My only concern was whether their entire flight would swamp the immigration desks at MCO, causing a prolonged wait, but I hoped it would be okay. A wander down to the gate and we boarded into our plush seats.

I checked the menu, which was great – except I didn’t like cheese or anything spicy. After speaking with one of the very helpful stewardesses, she got me a Premium Economy menu and arranged for me to have the stir fry. We received pictures from the other two until they departed, and the rest of us got comfortable.

Now, I happen to have a rather strange… condition. It emerged as I approached thirty, so I’ve had it for a while: on long haul flights going west, I get ill. Not airsick, but headaches, nausea (becoming vomiting), weakness, and some dizziness. Essentially, it feels like a severe hangover, but without the drinking beforehand (note that the three cocktails I had on this trip are unusual; I usually fly with no alcohol at all). And it only happens on long flights in one direction.

When it started, it was only for flights to the West Coast of the US, but gradually inched shorter and shorter; by my mid-thirties, I was being hit on flights to Washington. And, of course, Florida. But only on flights west – flights east were fine…

There was a single exception – when work sent me to China, I was fine on the return flight. But then I recognised it, on a skiing trip to Colorado, when I was hit by exactly the same thing without a flight. It was identical to altitude sickness.

Speaking with a doctor, he suggested that the reduced oxygen level on a flight (they pressurise to 5000 feet rather than ground level, and the oxygen level does deteriorate through the length of the flight as CO2 builds up) coupled with the natural ageing of my semi-circular canals might make me prone to anoxia. Which explained not only why I escaped it flying east, but why I’d escaped it on the China flight: I slept through half the flight or more (As I’d gone with a senior civil servant, we’d flown out Club World to China).

So, we arrived in Orlando and deplaned promptly (Upper Class went first, yay!). I was feeling okay – mild headache and light nausea, but nothing like the wrung-out wreck I could be. Straight to immigration… and the desks were empty!

Through in minutes, to the bag carousel, and we Whats-apped the other two, who advised us that they’d only just got off the monorail and we really should check the carousel number given to us, because they’d been given the wrong one. They were right; despite being told Carousel 4, we were Carousel 3. And then our four bags were among the first ten off – result.

Onto the monorail and we met Steph and Andrew, who’d been waiting less than ten minutes. Straight down to Alamo, where they tried their luck in asking us to upgrade to a bigger vehicle (“I don’t think you’ll get the six of you plus luggage in that Dodge Caravan.” Really? Watch us…) and we were on the road less than forty-five minutes after the wheels stopped on the aircraft.

I have never had it go so smoothly.

The sat-nav on the vehicle seemed programmed to send us some weird route (afterwards, we wondered if it was set to avoid toll roads), but I followed the instructions from the villa owner (and my own TomTom that I brought with me) and we pulled up thirty minutes after leaving the airport. An hour and a quarter after the plane touched down, we were in the villa.

We were all rather knackered, so we got settled in, I popped out to Wal-Mart (eventually finding it) and we grabbed the essentials. As we'd eaten plenty on the way over, we just browsed snacks for dinner.
Now that’s a day that went like clockwork!
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Old 21 Aug 20, 06:02 PM  
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tootsie rolls
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Perfect travel day ,looking for to your next day ,
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Old 21 Aug 20, 08:04 PM  
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Capt Wilko
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No queues? Amazing! Looking forward to lots more days with hopefully no queuing.
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Old 22 Aug 20, 07:48 AM  
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Wow. I think that’s the smoothest travel day report I’ve ever read. I hope the return flight was as good. 🤞

Thx for posting. It’s great to read something positive 🙂
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Old 22 Aug 20, 01:02 PM  
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Smooth operator, hoping the rest panned out as well as this first day!
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Old 23 Aug 20, 06:08 PM  
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A very pleasant travel day indeed I'm going to look at booking economy and upgrading to club for next year thank you for the tip xx
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Old 24 Aug 20, 01:12 PM  
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Brilliant travel day

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