So we come round now to August 2010. Iím going to Disney World...again. A lot has happened in the past seven years and a lot hasnít happened. Iíve tried to get another trip back sorted before now but one thing stood in my way: money. Or rather the lack of it. After Steven was born we went down to one income for a while and then I re-turned to work on a part time basis so money was tight to say the least. We managed a week in Cornwall here and there which was nice because itís a lovely part of our country and also we want Steven to see that there is more to life than Disney World, even though his mother thinks otherwise!
A villa? Well yes. A lot of people do this and itís about time we branched out from hotels and tried alternative ways of spending our holiday dollar. So I booked a villa. If truth be told the big deciding factor was separate bedrooms so we didnít have to tuck children in bed and then sit in silence in our hotel room in case we awoke them.
The clincher that proves my impending fall into insanity is the dates that I booked: August 14th to August 28th. Yes Iíd booked smack in the middle of the school summer holidays. I must be mad. Or am I? You see I have a child at school so now I enter the debate that causes arguments and battles all over Disney forums internet wide: do I take my child out of school for a holiday? Anyway the decision was taken out of my hands by the fact that I happen to now work in the same primary school that my son attends. I was a volunteer helper there during his first two years, then some vacancies appeared so I applied and found myself offered a real proper job there. I am officially a member of support staff and I support a child with a statement of special educational needs. I think itís the best job in the world. It also means I canít take holidays during term time.
So August it is then. Only 800 days to go. Nanny Lesley is coming again and she canít wait. Big Steve and his family are also excited by the prospect of a return trip too. Then Big Stevencalled me and cancelled. They donít want to go in August as it will be too hot and too crowded.
At some point in between 800 days to go and 0 days to go we were visited by Adrian's sister and her husband. Actually they do visit us more than once every 800 days but this visit was significant as we flippantly tossed the idea out that they could come with us to stay in this massive villa we had booked. Well husband definitely couldnít as he has one of those jobs where he is told when he can take his holiday and he missed our dates by two weeks. But sister is messing around saying sheíll go anyway and leave him behind. Now I have no idea what conversation went on between them but a couple of days later the sister phoned and asked if she could come with us. So sister is on board and hereafter known as Auntie Jo.
So the passenger list is now myself, Adrian, Steven Nanny Lesley and Auntie Jo. Around 400 days to go now and I figure we better start looking at flights. The shop around starts and goes on for a while before I eventually commit to a price quoted me by a travel agent. We have flights with Virgin Atlantic and a 7 seat rental car. This is all starting to come together.
It is still so far away though that it really doesnít seem like weíre going. So much could go wrong between booking and going. The world could end, or something even worse.
Sometime around February of 2010 I booked a Dine With Shamu package via the Sea World website. Of course then came the crushingly tragic death of Dawn Brancheau while working with the aforementioned whales. Dine With Shamu was cancelled and a couple of months before we departed I had the phone call from Sea World confirming this and refunding my credit card payment. A slight disappointment but under the sad circumstances entirely understandable.
Also around this time I booked our ďnight before the flightĒ arrangements. We live about 30 minutes from Gatwick but even so prefer to spend the night before in an airport hotel. As the check in for transatlantic flights start early in the morning we would have to get up at about 6am to leave for the airport all the while hoping that a lorry does not jack knife on the M23 two miles from the Gatwick turn off. So we usually stay at the Gatwick Hilton which is joined to the south terminal. We would do twilight check-in with Virgin and the next morning just stroll through to Departures and on to the plane. But this is the trip of doing it differently remember? And this time we needed 2 rooms so after a bit of shopping around and looking at reviews I booked 2 rooms at the Gatwick Travelodge. Well for £23 a night as long as it has a bed and a toilet Iíll take it. Now the car was the next issue. Normally again weíd plonk in it long stay parking but this wasnít a normally holiday. So I plumped for one of the new fangled Meet and Greet services that collect your car from you at the terminal and deliver it back to you when you come home. I booked our car to be collected at 7.15am. So weíd have to get up at 6am to be ready on time. Hmmmmm...
Now I donít know about you but sometimes I have trouble deciding what I want to eat for lunch in 2 hours time, let alone what I want to eat in 6 months time. However I had to do a bit of forward planning for this as we want to eat in some Disney restaurants.
Unlike many travellers to Disney World however, we like to get out and eat ďoffsiteĒ a lot for a few reasons. Firstly itís cheaper. Secondly thereís some great food out there and also there are vegetables out there. Yes if I have one major criticism of the Disney dining experience it is that it is distinctly lacking in vegetables. After careful consideration I have booked the following table service restaurants at Disney World. Chef Mickeyís for breakfast as itís a character meal and I want to ease the boy into the size of the characters gently. Also itís a buffet meal there will be something for everyone available. Teppan Edo in Epcot. Itís a Japanese restaurant and not something weíve tried before. The layout appeals to me: being seated at big tables while the chef cooks right in front of you. If nothing else it will keep the boy amused. 50s Prime Time Cafe. We ate here on our last trip and had a blast with our server; Uncle Tim. Finally 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Resort for our last night dinner. This was the restaurant we ate our last night dinner at on our last trip so in the spirit of doing different things I booked it again. I booked each of these as soon as the 180 window opened using the new online booking system that Disney has introduced. Got all my preferred seating times and the process was painless.
So we have travellers, flights, a rental car, somewhere to stay and some things to eat. Just need a pirate now then. I heard about a new pirate makeover ďthingĒ that was happening near the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in the Magic Kingdom. Throwing caution to the wind that is our phone bill I was straight on to the reservation line and spoke to an awesome Cast Member who got Steven booked in for our first Magic Kingdom morning. We have a pirate.
Then a strange thing happened. The last week of the school term arrived and it was all of a sudden three weeks until take off day. Time to start turning small circles and flapping my arms about wildly. Since the 800 day countdown had begun though, I had gradually dropped pieces of the puzzle into place though and as it turned out there wasnít really much planning left to do. Adrian was taking care of the currency exchange, I had a prepaid credit card loaded with dollars and Steven had been saving diligently and had amassed himself, with the help of many people, $350 in spending money.