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View Full Version : The surprise May Villa & car (gulp) trip



keith
28-04-2011, 07:47 AM
We were planning on missing our usual May trip this year and having a longer Christmas/new year trip instead. Well things changed and I decided to book a surprise visit for DW staying in a lovely villa and gulp, tremble, hiring a car as you've all told me to for many long years :lol:

As a quick last minute thing, I was pricing up flights and although virgin wanted 600+ per person economy, hardly any discount for miles+money any more, thomas cook wanted a little over 200 each! So well I thought I'd give it a go for that price.

So here we are, terminal 1 in Manchester airport rather than the usual terminal 2, sitting in the escape lounge courtesy of the barclays premier airport angel scheme. Worked a treat and got us in free.

I dont know if the escape lounge has improved in terminal 2 recently but here in terminal 1 it's a LOT better than our last t2 escape experience. Compared to the toast in t2 escape, the t1 version has bacon sandwiches, egg with toast soldiers and loads more besides!

The staff in t2 escape have been quite snotty on several occasions, again in t1 couldnt be more different. Very very nice and helpful.

Of course I'm not really looking forward to the plane :lol: 200quid doesnt buy much and I understand that the seats are tiny and in flight entertainment is going to be limited to watching me try and fit into a seat. Luckily I've brought my ipad heavily loaded with films and books. SO much easier than bringing all those heavy magazines and paper books!

in flight meals were extra too but they're always awful so this time I've saved the money and bought some sandwiches from good ole boots instead.

At the other end, assuming I survive the tiny seats, we'll hopefully have a dodge charger or similar waiting for us and we'll be trying the Orlando bumper car experience for the very first time. If you never hear from me again, well, look for the rear of a dodge charger poking out from a swamp somewhere in the everglades and think of me.

In other gadget news, this it the first outing of the apple macbook air SSD. Tiny little thing, needs to be seen to be believed and instant to start up and load apps because of the 256GB ssd drive. I pondered bringing the 15 or 17 macbook pros as usual but this time thought I'd try and see if I could live with this tiny thing for a couple of weeks. so far so good! definitely a very fast little device and perfect for travel.

Britchick
28-04-2011, 07:56 AM
Hope you don't end up in a swamp! Have fun!

Isafari
28-04-2011, 07:57 AM
Wow, you got a GREAT price on the flight! We ended up having to pay over 2000 for two seats in December school holidays which cuts into our spends drastically.

You're gonna be fine with the car/driving - just you wait and see. :yes: Sit for a while at the car pick up and get used to where all the controls are before you set off - you'll wonder why you got so nervous.

Have a truly brilliant time and safe journey :hug2:

ukwdwnut
28-04-2011, 08:00 AM
mick *faints* OMG a trip report from keith :lol:

cool!! your gonna have a great time keith in a villa and i promise you will love the freedom of having the car to go where and when you want. its a piece of cake driving over there once you get used to driving on the wrong side of the road :D

have a great time and looking forward to reading more about your trip :)

uscwest
28-04-2011, 11:20 AM
Wow, knew you were asking a lot of car questions, but WOW, off today. Have a great trip.

arkvilla
28-04-2011, 11:26 AM
Have a great time Keith and I hope you love the villa experience

Driving is a doddle and you'll soon wonder why you've never done it before :-)

Sandra

catrancher
28-04-2011, 12:52 PM
Wow! A new game of "Where's Keith".

And I didn't even know we were playing. :unsure:

Tom (:macwave:... it's kinda like "Where's Waldo" but different.)

daveann
28-04-2011, 01:14 PM
oh my goodness have a fab time you will love driving over there just relax and have fun :)

josh.p.
28-04-2011, 01:30 PM
:mental: Think of all the places you can go with the car! Exciting!

josh.p.
28-04-2011, 01:30 PM
P.s... send a Mouse on the Move when you've arrived safely at the villa because otherwise we'll have to send Tink swamp diving.

Johnie
28-04-2011, 01:48 PM
You will be fine! And your always going to want a car now. It makes life sooooo much easier.

Have a fun trip!

uscwest
28-04-2011, 03:12 PM
Anyone have a GPS tracker system so we can track him on his cell phone and know where he is?

lisaw
28-04-2011, 03:21 PM
Have fun and enjoy that new found freedom! :wave:

Slowhand
28-04-2011, 03:22 PM
No doubt you are 30,000 feet in the air by now Keith....I hope that you gave us a wave as you passed over our house en route from Manchester. :lol:

Have a tremendous vacation and enjoy your new experience of driving over there. :wave:

keith
29-04-2011, 03:06 AM
Well what a day :)

Thomas cook cheapy seats weren't nearly as bad as expected! Definitely an inch or two less wide than virgin's economy, definitely an inch or two less legroom (and to be honest, I've always thought virgin economy was possibly in breach of certain basic human rights :tongue: ) but decent in flight entertainment, helpful staff and the lack of free inflight meal/drinks meant I could actually get a bit of undisturbed sleep. Well undisturbed other than the hundreds of screaming kids.

Sanford great as always. Small, fast, unfussy.

Dollar car hire went well with no hard sell on anything and the car is a rather nice 4 door dodge charger.

For reasons which currently escape my tired brain, we missed the turn for 417 and ended up going the i4 way but at least that meant we avoided all the tolls! To be honest, it was fine :) busy but certainly nowhere near as bad as the UK M6 on a monday morning :lol:

We spent the evening at EPCOT at bistro de paris. Scrumptious indeed! and rounded it off with illuminations for a perfect first evening.

Then back to the villa. Wow. I was quite content with my uk home until I saw this villa and I now realise that back in the UK I actually live in a hovel :lol: Absolutely beautiful but for now, I need some sleep :)

Tomorrow, dw wants to watch some wedding or other :taunt: and I want to see the shuttle launch and do the Luau at the polynesian :)

Esmeralda
29-04-2011, 07:17 AM
Yay! He got there just fine, knew he would.... well ok so I had some doubts... but Yay!

Britchick
29-04-2011, 07:44 AM
Keith lives! Yay

daveann
29-04-2011, 08:50 AM
Yay you went I4 route it's so easy isn't it :) if you go back that way I can recommend the long horn steak house which is on lake Emma road the 1st exit right after you join the road down to the airport :)
Have fun :)

uscwest
29-04-2011, 10:43 AM
So how did you like driving in America for the first time? Glad you arrived safely and all is well.

Tinkfan
29-04-2011, 01:57 PM
:wave:Have the best time ever! Pictures please!!!!

Slowhand
29-04-2011, 04:13 PM
It`s good to hear that we no longer have to keep a look out for the rear of a Dodge Charger that`s face down in the Everglades! :lol:

Glad that all is going well Keith...having dinner at the Bistro de Paris is really a fantastic way to start your vacation. :thumbsup:

Enjoy the rest of your holiday. :wave:

keith
29-04-2011, 05:51 PM
Well I'm awake and refreshed :lol: I wish they'd move Florida a bit closer to the UK, then again, perhaps I don't :lol:

Driving was interesting. We'd got a GPS with US maps and a dear friend kindly sent me all their points of interest for us to load. We've lived by that as it turns out that they've got EVERYTHING in there! Literally they've put in a load of perfectly accurate points which have everything we'd ever want and more. So all we do is select the point and let the nav do the heavy lifting. So far it's been brilliant.

We did try and navigate to the villa via the 417 before the gps but messed up and by the time I got the system going it sent us I4 but it was fine. No tolls and easy enough. At one point we had a sheriff car behind us and a state trooper car in front so I was wondering if this was to be a really well executed stop :lol: but thankfully not.

So far driving has yes indeed, been fine :)

Great sleep and woke up to DW watching the royal wedding but then, can't have everything I guess ;-)

I'm now sitting by a perfectly wonderful pool, lovely cold drink and some kind of pringles called Rajin'cajuns which have totally burnt my tongue but somehow I keep eating.

Being used to a small hotel room when we come in Florida this is just amazing! I can now see why people love villas.

Given the shuttle launch is delayed, I think we're going to do a bit of shopping, possibly a chinese for lunch and then the luau at the polynesian later :)

My thanks to everyone on this wonderful forum for all your kind words and help during the planning :hug2:

Esmeralda
29-04-2011, 10:02 PM
So glad you have conquered your driving in Florida fear. You really are amazing and very brave. Kudos to you, and I really mean that.

Lisa1976
30-04-2011, 08:42 AM
Have fun Keith - am very jealous of your last minute trip!!

daveann
30-04-2011, 10:32 AM
Oh how I wish I was there have fun :)

Tink
30-04-2011, 11:06 AM
So glad you found the I 4 at a time when it wasn't jammed!!! The shuttle scrub must have been a disappointment, but it's rescheduled for Monday, so perhaps you'll get to see it after all.

Hope your days are going well! The car is lovely to have, isn't it? :yes:

Take care now!!! :hug2:

keith
05-05-2011, 03:47 AM
well half way through already! noooooooooo!

Having a wonderful time. The villa is beyond fantastic, absolutely in love with it and really don't want to leave :lol: the driving has indeed been fine, the dodge charger a pretty fine car and a full tank about $40 unbelievable!

Tonight was the columbia restaurant in celebration and it couldnt have been better. Wonderful bourbon covered filet mignon and great wine. Awesome place and amazing value relative to Disney restaurants!

This afternoon was crazy golf at the pirates cove at crossroads, always good for a fun hour or so although very very hot!

We've been to the luau, charleys steakhouse a few times, the malls and all over with the car and already I'm starting to wonder if we could ever do Orlando without a car again!

Many thanks to everyone here for taking the time to kindly and patiently explain the advantages of the car hire over and over until I was convinced :)

Kate
05-05-2011, 06:21 AM
Sounds like you are having a wonderful time, and i also think you sound very chilled out!!

lisaw
05-05-2011, 07:37 AM
Glad you are having a great time and the hiring of a car was a success! :)

ukwdwnut
05-05-2011, 08:21 AM
the villas are superb aren't they keith. so glad your enjoying your stay in one. i never doubted for a second that you would have problems driving over there as its so much better than here. also its gives you the added freedom of going places you'd never go if you stayed onsite and didn't hire a car.
hope the rest of your stay is as good, well of course it will be :D

Esmeralda
05-05-2011, 10:01 AM
Yay! You'll never go to Florida again without a hire car. The freedom to roam is fantastic isn't it. Plus the luxury of a villa with its own pool and facilities is wonderful to have. And eating off site is sooooooooo much cheaper isn't it.

catrancher
05-05-2011, 10:51 AM
Glad you're having a good time Keith! And glad the car is working out for you. :thumbsup:

Now... if we could just get you to listen to us about a Disney Cruise, all would be right with the world! :sail:

Tom (:macwave:... Terry will be along later to beat you up about the cruise some more!)

Slowhand
05-05-2011, 04:08 PM
I hate to say "I told you so" Keith, but I did indeed "tell you so" regarding the car. :lol:
I`m so pleased that you have got the hang of it, and as you say it will be hard not to hire a car over there in future.
Glad that you are still enjoying your holiday and it`s good to hear that the Columbia Restaurant is still up to scratch.
Enjoy the rest of your time there. :wave:

catrancher
05-05-2011, 04:18 PM
Tom (:macwave:... Terry will be along later to beat you up about the cruise some more!)


I hate to say "I told you so" Keith, but I did indeed "tell you so" regarding the car. :lol:
I`m so pleased that you have got the hang of it, and as you say it will be hard not to hire a car over there in future.
Glad that you are still enjoying your holiday and it`s good to hear that the Columbia Restaurant is still up to scratch.
Enjoy the rest of your time there. :wave:

Don't make me out a liar. Beat him up about taking a cruise too! :ROFL:

What kind of Cruise Director are you anyway! Making your subordinates do all the work! :taunt:

Tom (:macwave:... keeping the management in line!)

Slowhand
05-05-2011, 04:30 PM
D`ya know I did indeed intend to mention this in my last post Tom, but you are correct I must work on Keith to try a DCL cruise....I just love spending other folks` money! :lol:

catrancher
05-05-2011, 05:18 PM
I just love spending other folks` money! :lol:

:keith:

Tom (:macwave:... sounds like a plan to me!)

uscwest
06-05-2011, 07:23 PM
Keith, just back in town myself. So glad to hear that all is going well and assume you will assist in keeping the car rental agencies going the next time you visit. :yes:

keith
12-05-2011, 05:23 PM
Well, last day today :cry2: we're just tidying up and packing

I can honestly say we've had the BEST time :yes:

We've always stayed on Disney in the disney resorts and without a car, so this was a really new experience. I was pretty sure DW would love the sunbathing and peace/quiet but I was less sure if I'd enjoy it. I'm more of a contemporary resort hustle bustle type of hotel dweller :lol:

Well we both loved it. The villa made us gasp as we opened the door. Amazingly beautiful place to stay and certainly a very different, more relaxed and free holiday.

The car worked out great as well. We picked up a Dodge Charger at sanford from Dollar having used carhire3000 which seemed to be the best price (Thanks to Slowhand and Wendy for the recommendation). There wasnt much of a hard sell but then I'd chosen the premium package anyway since it was our first time.

Out to the car park the car looked great and sure enough Dolly Dodge, as she came to be known, performed flawlessly. I know many don't believe in Sat Nav systems but ours really made a huge difference. We were emailed a GPX file of favourite destinations which we just selected and voila!

It really was much much much better than I expected, especially round Disney as everyone told me it would be.

I think all in all, the US system is more prepared to deal with fools and silliness than the UK :lol: the silly looking dangling traffic lights do at least dangle over a lane so you know exactly which one you're looking at (something which can be awkward in the UK). There are certainly signs for EVERYTHING :lol: and the space is amazing! Even the parking bays are angled.

If I had to pick on one thing it's the exits. It's not JUST that there's hardly any notice of them, it's not only that they can be on the left OR the right (which is kinda crazy in itself) but it's the way you can have an exit only lane here..... and the exit you need is the NEXT one. So you need to avoid the first exit only lane and then manage to get in again for the one you need (whilst avoiding the folks who thought sod it and just drove through the first one anyway).

So many times we were thinking ok.... exit in 1 mile.... hmmm cant get over now though because thats ANOTHER exit :/ then before you know where you are, blam :lol:

Anyway, it was great. Petrol silly cheap :) funny because first time we stopped for "gas" this huge guy 7ft tall 7ft wide guy was filling up some hiphop vehicle alongside and I said to dw wow look at the price (as in hey this is like $4 a gallon instead of $11 back home) and huge booming voice said "I hear you man, this is too expensive, terrible times, terrible times". Of course I'm not minimising the impact of fuel costs when they've been so much cheaper for everyone but still compared to the UK it's WOW.

We had some lovely times, drives and meals. The out and out winner this time was the columbia restaurant at Celebration. We had two outstanding meals there. Service, food, everything was just first class. I'm going to miss not being able to just pop there.

Not too many bad points. I guess more than ever we were stung by how poor Disney dining has become in terms of value and for the most part, service. Each time we dined we felt rushed and treated very much like an annoyance. Get em in, sit them down, get the money, get em out. When I consider that even a mediocre Disney restaurant cost easily $100 for the two of us, and compare to the Columbia which offered food which was a hundred times better, bottle of wine etc and we still struggled to get it to $90! Disney just looks increasingly uncompetitive.

We tried a few more Chinese buffets/restaurants. All rubbish I'm afraid :( and we tried a few at 3:15pm and of course they all wanted Dinner rates which were usually $5 a head more, and should only start at 3:30 or 4, for a more expensive selection (apparently) which always consisted of a few more seafood choices which we didnt want anyway. Even a place we'd gone to for years and they know us, tried it on this time. "oh 3:15 we'll give you the dinner menu although its not out yet, ok?" not really ok no :/

Other interesting things. It was our first time not using disney buses to the parks. WOW it can take a long time to get back to your car from the magic kingdom at the end of the night can't it???? :lol: I didnt realise! clever the way the Castle is so visible from the ferry stop by the car park.

The tmobile mifi device worked great! It's a tiny device which provides pay as you go internet for up to 5 wireless devices. I kept it in my pocket and the iphone used it perfectly from in the parks etc :) very nice solution. I paid $50 for 3GB but there are lower top ups you can buy.

Ah well that's about it really. I'm normally ready to come home after two weeks in a tiny hotel room, but I could quite happily stay here forever.

See you all from the UK :cry2:

uscwest
12-05-2011, 05:42 PM
Sounds like you had a fabulous trip, except for the rushed dining. Donna and I have a habit of telling our server that we are there to relax, enjoy a drink, maybe an appetizer and will order dinner when we feel like it. Have never run into a problem.

keith
12-05-2011, 05:54 PM
Sounds like you had a fabulous trip, except for the rushed dining. Donna and I have a habit of telling our server that we are there to relax, enjoy a drink, maybe an appetizer and will order dinner when we feel like it. Have never run into a problem.

Good plan. I'll have to try similar.

The worst was Mama Melrose. Now it's not an AMAZING place but we usually do the fantasmic dinner package which works out "ok". Well this time it was queuing out the door, everyone had been packed in and I heard two CMs discussing how many reservations had been made and how they could possible service so many. Naturally, a few minutes into our appetizers the main courses were unceremoniously dumped on the table.

Certainly far from the wonderful Disney dining of old

It's ok to be honest. I'd far rather spend the dollars at Charleys, ruths chris, columbia etc.

We also spent a bit more time at Universal citywalk and wow is that place JUMPING! Kinda what pleasure island SHOULD have been.

arkvilla
12-05-2011, 06:44 PM
Nice to see a neutral post froma novice villa renter. Sounds like a really positive experience of a first time villa renter Keith - really pleased you enjoyed staying in your own little piece of Florida for 2 weeks.

Next time you want Chinese type food, try Thai Thani at Celebration as well - the food is gorgeous

We are big fans of Celebration and spend many happy times there.

Have a good trip home

Sandra

keith
12-05-2011, 06:56 PM
oh a completely positive and amazing experience for sure! I absolutely loved it and don't want to leave :lol:

One thing I was surprised by was how little there was at champions gate. I have perhaps simply missed it since we only went there once and briefly. I kinda expected it to be a huge place with loads of restaurants etc :lol:

It wasn't in any way a problem though! It's just people in the past have said oh you must try champions gate... I must have only gone in one section or something

josh.p.
12-05-2011, 07:20 PM
Sounds like you absolutely loved it :thumbsup: I struggle to find a nice Chinese buffet anywhere in the world but Hong Kong really spoilt Chinese food for me as it's just not the same any more :thumbsdown:

If I don't speak to you before then have a safe journey home!

Wendy
12-05-2011, 08:59 PM
So happy you have had a great time :hug2: I told you that you'd be converted :yes:

Im glad our favourites helped, it is so more relaxing when you don't know where you're going. We use the gps if we are going a bit further away, but we know of a lot of back roads to avoid the traffic, so we have to turn it off because she drives us mad telling us we need to make a u-turn :lol:

:lol: You've had it easy with the Disney buses, it is a long walk to the parking lots :lol: It depends where you are going though, we park in the Boardwalk if we are going to Epcot, we've caught the boat to HS studios from there as well.

I guess you are on your way to the airport (or probably there if you did leave at 3.30) Hope the flight leaves on time hun :hug2: speak to you when you get home.

keith
12-05-2011, 10:12 PM
Had a totally wonderful time best ever and so don't want to leave lol

Completely converted both to villa and to car hire

At airport now sigh



So happy you have had a great time :hug2: I told you that you'd be converted :yes:

Im glad our favourites helped, it is so more relaxing when you don't know where you're going. We use the gps if we are going a bit further away, but we know of a lot of back roads to avoid the traffic, so we have to turn it off because she drives us mad telling us we need to make a u-turn :lol:

:lol: You've had it easy with the Disney buses, it is a long walk to the parking lots :lol: It depends where you are going though, we park in the Boardwalk if we are going to Epcot, we've caught the boat to HS studios from there as well.

I guess you are on your way to the airport (or probably there if you did leave at 3.30) Hope the flight leaves on time hun :hug2: speak to you when you get home.

Wendy
12-05-2011, 10:18 PM
Had a totally wonderful time best ever and so don't want to leave lol

Completely converted both to villa and to car hire

At airport now sigh


:sigh: it's horrible when it's time to come home :hug2:

Hope it didn't take very long to find rental return.

keith
12-05-2011, 11:05 PM
:sigh: it's horrible when it's time to come home :hug2:

Hope it didn't take very long to find rental return.

It was really easy actually.... the gps took us right there, handed everything over, said sad fairwells to dolly dodge and walked across the path to the checkin desk. That's one thing about sanford, there really isn't much to it!

The downside is there's very little going on in the departure area. A far cry from MCO which feels so much more professional :lol:

Anyway, long as it gets us home safe hey?

Wendy
12-05-2011, 11:35 PM
It was really easy actually.... the gps took us right there, handed everything over, said sad fairwells to dolly dodge and walked across the path to the checkin desk. That's one thing about sanford, there really isn't much to it!

The downside is there's very little going on in the departure area. A far cry from MCO which feels so much more professional :lol:

Anyway, long as it gets us home safe hey?

Pleased to hear it :) Dolly Dodge eh :lol: I wonder what Terry calls his :lol:

You shouldn't have much longer until you start boarding and then you can put your headphones and read or get some sleep :)

Slowhand
14-05-2011, 08:36 AM
One thing I was surprised by was how little there was at champions gate. I have perhaps simply missed it since we only went there once and briefly. I kinda expected it to be a huge place with loads of restaurants etc :lol:

It wasn't in any way a problem though! It's just people in the past have said oh you must try champions gate... I must have only gone in one section or something

I too haven`t really explored Champions Gate although [very unusual for me!] I do enjoy the Publix there in a strange sort of way. :lol:
We also use the dry cleaners next door to Publix who are very inexpensive.
The only other place that we have been to is when Ricardo and his DW took us for an excellent dinner at the hotel there a few years ago....the Omni? [not sure of its name.:unsure:]

I`m really glad that you are now coverted to the villa/driving issue Keith and hope that you had a pleasant journey home.