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Old 2 Dec 20, 10:45 PM  
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smithlane
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The BIG Old South Road Trip - July 2021 - BIG UPDATE 7th June!

Hello everyone

Long time, no see!
It's been a rubbish year hasn't it? I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that I cannot wait to see the backside of 2020 and with the amazing vaccine news today I'm feeling cautiously optimistic for a relatively normal 2021 .

I am currently not working (again!) and am on Day 8 of Self Isolation after Jim and I tested positive for CV. Great! So what better use of my time than to start another Pre Trippy for next year.

Before I start waffling on I'll introduce ourselves

First up me, Alicia. Another year older at 38 , still a mobile Beauty Therapist which is a job I love but it's been a tough year for the industry which makes me sad.
I live for my holiday's and is never happier than when I'm planning one or three! I'm partial to the odd spot of shopping and if you have read any of my reports before, you know that various visits from the Outlets to Michael's to Target happen frequently . I will be more than making up for the fact we haven't been to the States this year on our next holiday



Next up my long suffering partner Jim. 41 years old, a Project Manager on the Battersea Power Station development, is the amazing step father to my 2 children and thanks to him affords us these amazing holidays. The ultimate golfer and cannot wait to get back on the course this weekend after a month of not playing . To be fair I can't wait to get him out of the house, we've spent far too much time together recently, I think we're both getting on each others nerves

Hope, my beautiful 17 year old daughter. Currently in her second year of college and due to sit exams next year. We've finally finished her UCAS form for starting Uni next September. What a palaver that was . Just waiting for any offers to come in now. We are so proud of Hope's achievements. If someone had told me a few years ago she was predicted 2 Distinction *'s and a B then I would never have believed you! She is my gentle quiet soul who is looking forward to Uni but doesn't want to leave home so has chosen ones she can commute to. Loves shopping as much as her mum and cannot wait to get back over there to spend her dollars!





Last but not least my 15 year old son Sam. Still a Romeo who loves the ladies but again makes us incredibly proud how he has coped during what has undoubtedly been the toughest year of his life. He has taken his studies super seriously as he knows what is riding on his GCSE results and has managed to smile through the rough times. I am one proud Momma to these two





We had an amazing holiday planned for this Summer which was obviously not meant to be.
You can read all about our original plans HERE but I'll do a quick recap on what the 3 weeks would have entailed.
We had return flights to Orlando plus car hire with BA, then

1 night in Sawgrass
1 night Jekyll Island
5 nights Hilton Head Island
1 night Columbia
5 nights Smokey Mountains
1 night Atlanta
6 nights Florida Panhandle (1 night mini road trip to NOLA)
1 night Crystal River

It was going to be perfect

However, we were incredibly fortunate that we didn't lose a penny in cancelling. We took a voucher for the flights and car deposit, a voucher with Air Bnb for the HHI condo and our incredibly kind owners of the cabin in the Smokies let us rebook with no added cost. All the hotels for our 1 night stays were booked with Free Cancellation and we hadn't yet booked our condo in the Panhandle area of Florida.

When it got to June it became clear we wouldn't be going, I was trying to stay positive for as long as possible (remember that thread ) we rebooked for the October half term as both the kids get 2 weeks off. We condensed the 3 weeks into 2 as I couldn't take them out of school and college in these crucial exam years.

We tried to keep as busy as possible in the Summer and were loving the mainly hot weather. We spent a lot of time with Jim's sister and family near where they live in Hampshire going Paddleboarding and Kayaking, we had a glorious weekend over on the Isle of Wight with the dog seeing friends, we Ate Out to Help Out A LOT , and I eventually went back to work. My god it was the longest I have ever had off since I was at school! Being in the Beauty industry we were one of the last ones allowed to return.













We were also very grateful for having a week away with my SIL and family to Turkey which was well needed by August as it was looking very clear that would be our only time on a plane this year! We had a blast and it was so nice to forget about the dreaded CV even if only for a week. The hotel really wasn't great, but the best bit was nearly always having the adult pool to ourselves!





Although the food left a lot to be desired! This was breakfast . We were longing for a Denny's!



All of us on our last night there



Fast forward to September and it again became apparent the borders wouldn't be open or the US be taken off of the FCO list anytime soon with their rising case numbers so I set about cancelling everything for a second time. We were again covered so didn't lose a penny.

So with having to cancel for a second time, I was chomping at the bit to rebook for 2021. We were having to wait for the government to release the A Level and GCSE dates before we could book and they were frustratingly dragging their heels...
By October they were finally finalised, I'm still not convinced they will go ahead but if they do we travel a week after the last exam. Sam will most likely miss prom but he knows this and is fine with it. The school he is at only has 48 kids in a year group so it's not the big night out most schools have after exams.

The day the exam dates were published was the day I pressed the book button. Impatient? Me? Never!

I found a good deal with BA again flying to and from Orlando with a Group S (Ford Explorer) car on the 7th July for 15 nights. The only downside is the car is with Budget not our trusty Avis. But for 2123 for direct flights and car I'll suck it up and queue up at the kiosk

The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that we 'only' have 15 nights rather than the 21 we would have had this year but Jim has finally accepted the permanent role at his job so is now employed rather than having his own Ltd company. This means he is restricted to how long he can have off at a time which is a pain but on the plus side he now gets paid holiday. It's rather a novelty for us as we've both been self employed for ever so have always had it unpaid, also little grown up things like a good pension and family healthcare which are always a bonus

We start the holiday in the same way at Sawgrass so Jim can play golf. We have 2 nights here at the Hilton Garden Inn which is next door to the golf course but less than half the price of staying at the clubs Marriott hotel.

We then have a rather long drive over to Atlanta where we have 1 night stay at Hotel Indigo which is in the Midtown.
Atlanta is pretty expensive so I keep checking to see if I can get a better rate.

From here we drive up to the Smokies to stay in the fantastic looking cabin in the mountains. We have 5 nights here and I cannot wait!

On the 15th we drive down to Hilton Head Island. We've changed our accommodation as the last condo we booked was already taken on these dates. We have however booked an even nicer one which is situated right on the canal network in the Palmetto Dunes resort. It's a short cycle ride to the beach or to the marina.

After 5 nights on HHI we drive South to Jekyll Island and stay at the Holiday Inn Resort which is right on the beach for one night.

On the morning of the 21st we drive back to Orlando and we have 1 night at the Hilton Garden Inn Lake Buena Vista - I'm thinking shopping! Jim of course thinks it's so we don't have that long a drive to the airport on going home day

And that there ends what I truly hope to be a spectacular 2 and a bit weeks away. I actually think I'm going to be one of 'those' people that clap once we land and I'm not too ashamed to say that there will be tears of joy and relief if we get there!

Thank you so much for reading if you made it this far, I'll be back to add what plans we are hoping to do for each place we visit.

TTFN

Alicia

Edited at 09:21 AM.
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Old 2 Dec 20, 10:53 PM  
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cornishfrogboy
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That looks great fun and I have now looked up both Hilton Head Island and Jekyll Island.

Dont write off the Panhandle entirely for the future. We had a few nights in Pensacola at Margaritaville and loved it, a highlight being the Naval Aviation museum. Destin was also great.
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Edited at 10:57 PM.
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Old 3 Dec 20, 12:20 AM  
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2point
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That sounds like a fabulous trip.

Great to get planning again and having something solid to look forward to.

Look forward to the trip report!
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Old 3 Dec 20, 11:33 AM  
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smithlane
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Originally Posted by cornishfrogboy View Post
That looks great fun and I have now looked up both Hilton Head Island and Jekyll Island.

Dont write off the Panhandle entirely for the future. We had a few nights in Pensacola at Margaritaville and loved it, a highlight being the Naval Aviation museum. Destin was also great.
Thanks Dave, both HHI and Jekyll Island (which is part of the Golden Isles) look stunning from any photos I've seen of them.

We will absolutely be visiting the Panhandle at some point in the future. I still want to do a road trip to NOLA from Florida so is the perfect place to base ourselves.
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Old 3 Dec 20, 11:34 AM  
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Originally Posted by 2point View Post
That sounds like a fabulous trip.

Great to get planning again and having something solid to look forward to.

Look forward to the trip report!
Thank you for reading. We have everything crossed that it goes ahead! I think everyone deserves something to forward to next year
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Old 10 Jan 21, 09:20 AM  
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Sandraoh40
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Looks like a great trip. We did HHI a couple of years ago for 5 nights. Dh is also a very keen golfer so we do incorporate that into all our holidays.
Have a look at Skull Creek Boathouse for a night out. We absolutely loved it here, we went twice it was so good. Both nights they had a great band on and the atmosphere was brilliant. Very family oriented and right on the water with stunning views. We will go back just to go there.
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Old 17 Feb 21, 07:29 PM  
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smithlane
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Originally Posted by Sandraoh40 View Post
Looks like a great trip. We did HHI a couple of years ago for 5 nights. Dh is also a very keen golfer so we do incorporate that into all our holidays.
Have a look at Skull Creek Boathouse for a night out. We absolutely loved it here, we went twice it was so good. Both nights they had a great band on and the atmosphere was brilliant. Very family oriented and right on the water with stunning views. We will go back just to go there.
Hi Sandra, thank you for reading.
I had noted down Skull Creek Boathouse for our holiday last year from a recommendation on here, it could have been you actually. Is it the place with amazing sunset views?

Do you remember where your DH played golf? Jim is trying to narrow down the options as there are so many courses to choose from! I think Harbour Town is a definite (that's if we get out there!) I'm ever the optimist who won't be cancelling anything though until I have to
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Old 23 Feb 21, 05:40 PM  
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Keeping my fingers crossed for you! We had to cancel our california trip last august and have to rebooked for this august. We also managed a week away last year in Rhodes but am debating booking a hotel in turkey for a week in October just in case all of our summer plans dont happen! Can I ask where you stayed? We are looking at the Liberty lykia resort in Olu Deniz.
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Old 23 Feb 21, 08:49 PM  
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Originally Posted by danisleigh View Post
Keeping my fingers crossed for you! We had to cancel our california trip last august and have to rebooked for this august. We also managed a week away last year in Rhodes but am debating booking a hotel in turkey for a week in October just in case all of our summer plans dont happen! Can I ask where you stayed? We are looking at the Liberty lykia resort in Olu Deniz.
Thanks so much for reading, fingers crossed for your trip too. We went to California in 2019 and hands down the best holiday weve ever had, youll absolutely love it!

So the hotel in Turkey I really couldnt recommend, it was the Lykia World in Antalya although it was in the middle of nowhere! We booked through Love Holidays who were quite frankly shockingly bad and the hotel should never have been advertised to the British public. It was full of obnoxious Russians and the food was 90% catered towards them too. Most of the time it was fairly inedible! I took the kids with me when I went shopping to the Mall one day (they had a Bath and Bodyworks &#128521, the only reason they agreed to come with me was because they had a McDonalds in the food court 😂
The only redeeming factor was the adult pool which was right below our rooms which we had pretty much to ourselves, although it was a pain as the bar was shut so had to walk round to the main bar if we wanted a drink. We usually made the kids take it in turns though 😂
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Old 7 Jun 21, 09:18 AM  
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Hello there

So I thought I should actually update this pre trippy since I seem to have abandoned it since last November!
Hands up who thought wed still be in this mess regarding travel in June

With our balance due dates fast approaching, Jim and I had a long convo and we have decided to abandon our plans for this trip in July. I honestly cant see the borders opening so soon, especially as we are due to fly on the 7th so its just a bit too early on in the month.
At the time of writing our flights havent yet been cancelled. We had direct flights in to MCO from LHR, the Gatwick flights have already been cancelled so its only a matter of time before ours are.

However, fear not! As a seasoned Dibber, I of course have a Plan B

In February I decided to book some back up flights as I could see the lockdown going on for longer than originally thought and we had another BA voucher so I decided to play it safe.
The government had finally made a decision on cancelling the A Levels and GCSEs which affect both Hope and Sam and had moved the results days forward so this meant we could go at our ideal time of the last 2 weeks of August.

By this time the direct flights to Orlando had rocketed in price but I found some indirects to Jacksonville that were reasonable. 400 more than our bargain July flights but still good value considering what price they are now! However like an idiot I chose the smallest car they had and figured Id upgrade nearer the time if it looked like wed need it. Well the car hire prices have pretty much trebled so Avis want an extra 1040 to upgrade to a Ford Explorer

We fly on the 18th August from LHR to JAX via MIA then return home on the 2nd September JAX to LHR via CLT. With a Toyota Corolla the price was 2531.
BUT if BA cancel our July flights Im going to try and see if they can be moved to our August dates as they were 500 cheaper, although Im unclear how much well have to pay to move the car hire over.
If youre understanding this so far, well done!

Now onto cancelling the multiple bookings we had made for July. 4 hotels, 1 AirBnB and 1 direct with the owner.
Thankfully all the hotels were booked with Free Cancellation so that only took 5 minutes to sort.

Our AirBnB owner has very kindly rebooked our Hilton Head Island condo to next year as they are completely fully booked until April! Head to my Florida wedding pre trip report for more details which can be found HERE

The owners of the cabin in the Smokies only have 3 nights available for our dates in August, whereas we originally had 5. They have kindly moved the booking for us and we will drop our time in Gatlinburg to 4 nights and stay in a hotel for the extra one. Im thinking of finding one near Dollywood so after our day there we wont have far to go.

When I booked the new flights I made bookings for 2 nights in Sawgrass and 2 nights in Atlanta at the same hotels as before, again with Free Cancellation. We wont be booking anything else obviously until we know for definite well be going. I flip flop daily from being completely positive well get there to thinking the borders wont open until next year. Its draining I tell you! All Dibbers will understand this sickening rollercoaster journey were on at the moment

So, with all that done our new and improved itinerary is

18th August - Sawgrass Hilton Garden Inn - 2 nights



Whilst here Jim will be playing golf at TPC Sawgrass. For those of you who think golf is as much of a snooze fest as I do, its a pretty famous golf course where the PGA has been played before.



Ill probably drive the golf buggy for him and be on alligator watch, while the kids stay by the hotel pool.
He should be finished by lunchtime so the plan for the afternoon is to drive down to St Augustine which is only about 30 minutes away.
Not sure how much time well have here but will definitely stay for dinner.



20th August - Hilton Head Island condo - 5 nights

On the morning of the 20th we start the road trip and head north up to Hilton Head Island. En route well stop in Savannah for lunch as I NEED to find where the famous "life is like a box of chocolates" scene was filmed from Forrest Gump! I believe it's in Chippewa Square. Well have a good wander round the city too.





We havent rebooked our accommodation for Hilton Head Island yet but Im thinking of changing locations and finding somewhere near Coligny Plaza Beach instead of Palmetto Dunes where our original condo was. As well be going there next year I thought it might be nice to explore a different area. Its also cheaper as we cant stretch to the same price as before, we had already put a 700 deposit down with 700 left to pay so ideally we only want to pay the same price as the balance which we can by moving further down the island.





As HHI is the golf capital of South Carolina, Jim will be playing as many rounds as he can whilst the kids and I will be soaking up the rays on the beach, maybe go kayaking and will definitely be playing some crazy golf! If I can convince the others Id really like to do a sunset dolphin boat trip, although when we did one on Anna Maria Island a few years ago we didnt see a dolphin or a sunset.









25th August - Charleston - 2 nights

We didnt have a stop in Charleston on our original plan but Jim has recently watched a PGA tour at Kiawah Island which is nearby so has expressed an interest in visiting (you can sense a theme here cant you!)
After reading Amandas (WileyCoyotes) trip report from a few years ago, I really liked the look of Charleston so as we have 2 nights spare before we can get to the Smokies it seemed like a no brainer.
Will only have 1 full day so while Jim is golfing Ive seen a carriage tour ride of the city I would like to do plus pound the streets which is sometimes the best way to explore!





27th August - Smoky Mountain cabin - 3 nights

Finally onto the place that inspired this whole trip in the first place, you know, back before Covid 19 was even heard of!
Well spend our first 3 nights in the cabin in Cobbly Nob . Yes we really are that immature

Look how dreamy this place is though!







Whilst here well have 2 full days to explore the National Park so the plan is to cycle around Cades Cove, drive around the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, go on a mountain coaster, go white water rafting, and hike a few trails.













30th August - Pigeon Forge - 1 night

On our last day in the Smokies well spend the day at Dollywood. Can. Not. Wait! Whilst the coaster junkies do their thing Ill be getting my country on and finding as many live music acts as I can.
Ill probably find a local hotel for us to crash the night in, there are tonnes in the area so will have plenty to choose from!





31st August - Atlanta - 2 nights

Our last stop on the road trip!
Well leave the Smokies early and head to Atlanta with a slight detour to a town called Helen where they have a river tubing trail that has been recommended. It looks fun!



Once weve checked into the Hotel Indigo in Atlanta well take a short stroll over to the World of Coca Cola. I have added enough to their profits over the years I should have bought shares decades ago!
I would like to take a walk around the Olympic Park too which is next door.





On our last full day we will drive just outside of the city to a town called Senoia where The Walking Dead was filmed. Jim and I will be doing one of the walking tours of the film sets as we are huge fans of the show. The kids may tag along but I wont force them if theyre not interested. I also want to grab something to eat at Nic and Normans which is named after and owned by Greg Nicotero an executive producer of the show and Norman Reedus who plays Daryl





That there ends our 2 week road trip of the South. Well make the 5 hour drive to Jacksonville on our last day, our return flight isnt until 7pm but well get an early start just in case theres unexpected traffic.

We still have quite a bit to sort, Estas and travel insurance to start with plus I have done NO holiday shopping whatsoever. I have a feeling its all going to be very last minute!
So all we can do now is keep our fingers and toes tightly crossed and be patient, again

Ill update once we find out either way what the outcome is!

TTFN

Edited at 10:24 AM.
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