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Old 9 Jul 11, 08:23 PM  
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:) The Pre ramble 2011

Welcome to the trip that nearly wasn’t, probably shouldn’t be, but bloody well is going to be.

I have said “we’re not going next year” more times than the News of The World have invented a story, but truly last year even I believed it. Having already sold most of my major organs to cover the cost of the last decade of trips, the only things left to sell on my body were dangly, and not even Louise wants them.

However, as most of you predicted, it didn’t take that long for me to revert to type and book a trip to my favourite place. So let’s get those details out of the way, as is expected in these pre trip reports.

There I was sat, minding my own business, pretending to do some work, whilst really hammering the Kayak website in the hope that the same flight search would magically generate a different result from the one I got ten seconds ago, when up popped an email. It held within it a promise of my heart’s desires, my wishes coming true and my life being fulfilled.

Just as I was deciding whether I really needed those extra four inches, another email arrived which stated that flight prices for Florida were somehow available for less than the king’s ransom I had been enduring on Kayak, and every other flight search website known to man.

Yes, I know I had said we were not going, but as usual in late winter/early spring we are drawn to the holiday booking craving like Katie Price to a camera, and having realised that holidays anywhere else in the world are both pointless and boring, I had resorted to seeing if we could fly to anywhere in or close to America for less than the price of a new car.

So, you can see how this (second) email interested me. I was sceptical. Mainly as it said you had to phone up to get a price. This nearly always means that when you do phone, somehow the only available flight option is three times the price shown in the email, but I was a desperate man, and I was only going to be working if I didn’t phone, so I did.

My credit card throbbed in my pocket (I think it was my card, as I was mildly excited at this point), and as I chatted through various options it did appear that there may be a chance of getting a decently priced flight. It is amazing what actually qualifies as a decent price when you have spent months staring down the barrel of prices bordering on a grand!

“I really should check with Louise” said sensible me, to myself. Although, to be fair, she had been regularly texting me recently, asking me if I had booked it yet. It wasn’t clear if this meant the flight or those four inches to be honest.

As I suggested to the bloke on the phone that I really should consult the boss before laying out that amount of cash, he used the age old sales technique of saying something like…

“Well, you can, but I can literally see these flights going off the system in front of me. We think this price is a system error, as every other flight is at least £200 more each”.

Happy to be a sucker, I quickly released the throbbing thing from my pants, and let him have it, right there and then. What the hell, who wears the pants in our house anyway? Rhetorical question, I do, and they throb as well!

The flights are not perfect, as for a start, we have to fly from Heathrow, which is down south and everything! I only ever go to London with work, under duress and strong medication, so this was not ideal. The flights are also indirect, which for regular readers of our exploits, is not something we are good at. The Continental experience via Newark is not in our all-time top ten holiday moments!

No matter. For the price we paid, versus those still being quoted on websites around the world, it beats walking, and it means we are going.

The holiday deal struck with Louise a few weeks earlier was that we were allowed to go to Florida as long as we did not step foot in a Disney theme park. I see her point. We have done them to death, and we needed a change. So the flight landing in Fort Lauderdale was pretty much ideal, as my plan (yes I had a plan, even without flights or budget) was to visit the Keys and other such beachy areas.

So to summarise all that waffle our flights, courtesy of Air (O) Canada are –

28th July - Heathrow to Toronto to Fort Lauderdale

12th August - Orlando to Montreal to Heathrow.

The mathematicians amongst you will have immediately calculated that this is not your run of the mill 14 nights. This is no ordinary fortnight’s holiday, this is an extended version (I deleted that email I promise), made up of not 14, but 15 nights! The more astute amongst you will also have noticed that we fly back out of Orlando.

“Yes Louise that was the only available airport for our flight home…honest! ”

So next, in the DIY booking guide is car hire. As usual US Rentacar worked out the best (cheapest) so they got the order for the smallest car possible. I fear I will be easily encouraged to upgrade upon arrival, as we have a fair chunk of driving to do. Do they have RVs available?

Next, I sorted a very glamorous £25 booking at a Travelodge in spitting distance of Heathrow, and then 16 days of parking on airport.

We’ll be driving down south on the 27th. As we actually fly at 8.30am the following day, this means we will need to get up before we go to sleep to get to the airport for around 4.30am! Emily is, as you can imagine, delighted.

The next few weeks of planning were lost in a blur of spread sheets and hotel websites, as I tried to configure the ideal plan. This is harder than it sounds when for the past ten years you have been on safe ground. Sorting out a plan around Orlando and its theme parks has become second nature to me, but this was a whole other ball game. Speaking of which, the plan had to include one of those as we enjoyed our night at the baseball in Daytona last year so much.

Speaking of Daytona….we had also enjoyed our enforced, last minute stay at the Hilton, (a reminder not to book the Sun Viking Lodge!) so the first leg of the trip was starting to take shape. My friend, regular DVC point lenderer and work colleague Steve has been berating me for years to “do the Keys”.

With the girls now old enough to sit in a car for long periods of time without killing each other this looked like the time to do it. Louise and I will just have to take our chances!

First though, I had Vero to book. If we were to do a beach holiday in Florida, it just HAD to include some time here. So, via the borrowation (that is now a word) of some DVC points from the helpful Dibber Tom, we had two nights booked in the middle of the trip, and everything else would have to work around that. Yes, Vero is that good.

Next, after initially thinking of staying in Key West, but after a bit of research deciding not to, I booked three nights at the Hilton, Key Largo. Key West, it seems, is good to visit, and look around, but not great for staying in. Key Largo had some advantages.

1. It is a damn sight nearer the airport
2. It has a Hilton on the beach
3. It is a decent base from which to drive down through the Keys from.
4. It has appeared in a mid-90s Beach Boys song.

Lots more reading and researching led me, via the likes of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Boca Raton, to Naples. Yes, I know this is on the opposite side of Florida, but if I explain how I got there, we’ll be here all day. I suspect Jakki had something to do with it, as she was planning to stay there but ended up not. That makes sense to me and this is all that matters.

This was to be our main beach base, with a stay of five nights secured at the Naples Beach and Golf Club. You may have worked out from the title that this is on the beach. This is important to us, as we, as a family, have differing tastes, split between beach and pool, so having the two as close as possible means we can leave the kids in one and do the other. Frankly, at the ages of 14 and 16, we could leave them in a different state, but old habits die hard.

Baseball wise, Daytona is not commutable from Naples, so we have had to change our long standing devotion to the Daytona Cubs (one game), and instead go to the see the Fort Myers Miracles. To me they sound like a 70s vocal harmony group, but no matter. We’re booked. This minor league baseball is great value. I think we paid about $8 each for seats right behind the batter, and it goes on for hours. Me and baseball are similar like that! You should see my fast balls!

Naples shall also see our annual pilgrimage to the temple of Emo, Hot Topic, for the girls’ ritual wardrobe rebuild and Dad’s credit card hammering.

So far we have Key Largo, Naples and Vero, in that order. Keep up!

Next, well, we may as well make our way over to Orlando, as we HAVE TO fly home from there. So what we needed was a villa for the final five nights. Some Dibbage later and one was quickly arranged via the helpful Sheelagh, and we are Lake Davenport bound for the last leg of the trip.

So we’re going to be in Orlando for five nights. What is there we could do? Initial thoughts centred around Universal. However, with a lack of theme parks being essential for both Louise’s sanity and our financial viability, this, when considering the on-site stay required proved too much for our non-existent budget. I am nothing if not determined, and with a little more keyboard cajoling, discovered a tri-park ticket for Sea World, Busch and Aquatica for a much more acceptable figure. This then sorts out most of our Orlando stay.

In a moment of madness one evening, encouraged by a Louise at the wrong end of a glass or two of red wine, I inexplicably also booked tickets for Blue Man Group. The throbbing in my pocket is now a little lifeless!

With all that sorted we then hunkered down for the wait, which was dominated by Emily’s GCSEs, and a whole load of other real life stuff that tends to happen. Eventually we found ourselves within touching distance of our trip, and here I sit cracking one of these out at the keyboard. I am also writing a pre-trip report.

We are so close now that this week I ordered some dollars. I refuse to play the Russian roulette of exchange rates and just went straight in and ordered some without the three weeks of excel spread sheet formulas, trend analysis and expert opinion to gain about $10. Besides, I still have about $36 in our kitchen drawer from last year, so maybe that will do us for this year too? Perhaps I should post a thread asking if that will be enough?

So now you know all of the DIY booking daring do that went on to construct this trip. They don’t just happen you know! So , next….

The cast for this extravaganza consists of –

Craig (me what is writing this). A perky 40.

International man of mystery, housewife’s favourite, every man wants to be me, and every woman wants to be with me.

I have a long history of Disney and Florida obsessive behaviour dating back to 1980. I am a manager of sorts for a company that do mobile stuff (apps and marketing, not caravans and motor homes), and my only career goal is to do as little as possible to earn enough to go on these holidays every year. Waiting for my lottery win to stop the pain of the daily commute and meeting endurance. My hobbies are obsessing over holidays, and I write a blog.

Louise. Undeniably destined to always be older than me.

Breast tamer, teen tolerator, and luckiest woman in the world. Yes my wife, and mother to two lovely girls (she assures me they are more than likely mine). Louise has a love hate relationship with Florida, more specifically Disney and it is only my unending charm and irresistible chunkiness that has continued to get her across the Atlantic year after year. This is no mean feat, considering she would rather plait my back hair than get on a plane.

Emily. Bordering on Sweet Sixteen.

Indeed, her 16th birthday is the day before this adventure begins. Fresh from months of revision, which apparently requires Facebook to be open and her iPod on full blast, she is now in recuperation mode, sleeping for around sixteen hours per day, and doing her hair for the other eight. She has an unhealthy obsession with chicken sandwiches, Panic at the Disco and about six hundred other bands, all with guy liner and more hair than me. Plays drums.
Florida veteran, first visit 1999 at the age of four.

Rebecca. I absolutely refuse to call her Becky, 14 going on 24.

Boyfriend collector, bass player, bottom lip quiverer to get her own way. She has recently gone blonde to ease distinction from Emily and is never to be seen without her mobile firmly in hand. Rebecca receives more text messages than the X Factor gets votes and will be in cold turkey on this trip as the phone absolutely isn’t going with her.

First Florida trip 1999, at the ripe old age of two.

For those not familiar with me, my family or the past decade of drivel, have a clicky on the link below, and take a look at some of the previous trip reports. Then you can make a call as to whether you can endure this one.

That’s it. For those committed (in both ways) then welcome along, settle in, and we’ll get through this together.

Let the adventure begin……


Day One

Edited at 07:10 PM.
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Old 9 Jul 11, 08:29 PM  
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Old 9 Jul 11, 08:41 PM  
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disney chic
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Great to see you back.
can't wait to read more

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Old 9 Jul 11, 08:42 PM  
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Been waiting for this for ages. Have a great time and looking forward to reading all about it soon.
Need a new countdown!
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Old 9 Jul 11, 08:42 PM  
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very funny!
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Old 9 Jul 11, 08:47 PM  
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Yay I love your trip reports! a great read

Originally Posted by mkingdon View Post

Hehe love this picture! it looks like louise has a personal funnel to the kitchen sink!

Originally Posted by mkingdon View Post
My credit card throbbed in my pocket (I think it was my card, as I was mildly excited at this point)
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Old 9 Jul 11, 09:00 PM  
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Looking forward to the trippie already

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Old 9 Jul 11, 09:02 PM  
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Reading this on a day when I has the croakiest of voices and the most tickly cough is not good. Trying to laugh and hope it doesn't make me cough is near on impossible so I'll blame you when I'm no better in the morning

Seriously though it has really cheered me up and can't wait to read all about your adventure
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Old 9 Jul 11, 09:09 PM  
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Great pre trippy Craig.

Hope you enjoy your stay in Naples (we just love the Gulf coast).
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Old 9 Jul 11, 09:09 PM  
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Brilliant as usual
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