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View Full Version : Back To Basics Tour Nov/Dec 2009 Pre Trip


Obi Wan Kenobi
08-16-2009, 03:33 PM
Cast
Obi Wan Kenobi 50 :scared1: Cheif money holder and purse keeper
Princess Leia Organa, 44 DW and spender of the Jedi purse
Luke Skywalker 7, Ds and also spender of the Jedi purse which Princess Leia has left
New addition
Queen Padmé Amidala 66, Mother to Princess Leia :scared1::scared1::scared1:

Not to go into too much detail, as many have suffered in this economic downturn, we had to cancel our yearly trip to the USA last year and the year before as the company we owned went under (Thank YOU so very much Mr bank manager, pull in your loans, destroying our working capital whilst you get hand outs...DON'T get me started again!) and we had to liquidate a lot to pay the bills, including the Villa in Kissimmee.

Anyway, I was able luckily, to get a new job after nine months out of work, so we decided to have a break this year.

We also own Timeshare in Florida at Orange Lake Country Club, we have had this for 20 years and was where we went for our honeyoon, before buying property out there. Its a nice three bedroomed unit, hence the Back to basics theme of our trip.

I hope to give some pointers on how we arrange our trip, its not the same as others and probably not the way others would do it either, but i hope it will give some an idea of how to go about it.

This is the first year in many that we are goind on our own (well, thats how it started out at any rate!)
just me, the wife and the Little 'Un

So. Accommodation "booked". The first thing to do was arrange the flights.
One thing I will not scrimp on is the flight.
For too many years I have flown all over the world working in various forms of aviation and transportation and I have had too many crap flights, I look at my holiday as a break and my holiday starts when I leave the office on the Friday before the flight. To us the flight is not a means to get to the holiday, but the very first part of the holiday.
When we were just married, we had the journey from hell, from Birmingham to orlando with a charter (cannot now remember which one) from hell.
the flight had originated in Glasgow so all the bets seats and non smoking seats had gone and the BHX passengers were left with what was left, seats in the smoking section where the passengers lit one *** after another. We stopped off at bangor to go through immigration and the aircraft was refulled, 10 hours in total and because of the crappy seat pitch (29" I recall) we both had bad backs for the start of the holiday. I vowed never again and would rather not go than go in that terrible way again. My first ever flight was Birmingham to jersey on BEA in a Viscount in a leather seat, proper china dishes and proper service so I have always been spoiled I think (so has my little un!)
Then following a flight back to gatwick in Scheduled economy where due to teh fact I got no sleep and was shattered when arriving at London, then almost falling asleep on the journey home (I was driving) that was the final straw for Economy on long haul for me.

Whilst Virgin Atlantic are my favourite airline for the USA, this does not mean they are my only one. However, with Little un being so young, I have tried to get direct flights since he was born, which at the time we go (november )pretty much rules out our local airport, Birmingham. However as he is getting older, then indirect is also now a choice.

I also look at flight prices at the 336 day mark, as whilst i know prices can come down, normally this is the cheapest time to book, with "Z" class seats available.
I do look at Virgin holidays etc, as they do give you the option to book and pay over time, but they are not as cheap as direct in the Buisness class cabins, as I will come on to.

So. Last December I started to look for this November, 28th nov to 12th december.
We like this time as its still warm, and the christmas lights are up, and the crowds are down between thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays.

Next install ment
Prices what prices...

Obi Wan Kenobi
08-17-2009, 02:43 PM
Part two, prices what prices?


So, first thing I looked at was Virgin Holidays fly-drive (not taking the car of course)
When I first looked, UC was not available as they could not get any prices until 336 days out, but their PE was coming in at £3,200.68 (Prices are all for the three of us, two adults and one child) When they finally had UC pricing it was, wait for it...£5,433!

Virgin Atlantic UC from Gatwick was £4,627 and from manchester £4,645

BA CW was £4, 625.80 (how come surprise surprise they are always within a pound of each other? could not be price fixing could it?)
amdBA gatwick to Tampa £4,625.80 also

American Airlines Man-Chicago-Orlando was £7,568!
Heathrow-Dallas-Orlando £4,668.10

Continental BHX-Newark-MCO £8,702, YES! £8,702, so much for flying from my local airport!
Gatwick-MCO on the virgin codeshare £4,694

Delta Birmingham-Amsterdam-Atlanto-Orlando £4,749

Northworst BHX-AMS-MCO £4,749

United Bhx-Frankfurt-Orlando £4,631

USair manchester-Philidelphia-orlando £4,227
(USAir Birmingham does not run in the winter months)

Air Canada Heathrow-Toronto-Orlando £4,495

So, direct BA and Virgin were the cheapest, indirect US Air.

I decided to hold off until some Virgin sales came along (well, BA/Virgin as they are always on at the same time)

However, sudenly the Virgin UC prices dropped, and so did BA's!
In february I could get the seats at virgin for £3,715.25! BA £3,714
Well I thought long and ahrd, BA for the food? Virgin for the Clubhouse? BA for the IFE, Virgin for the seat/bed
In the end I booked Virgin for the Bed, clubhouse and miles. (Bad move :-( )
It really is very close between the two now and if US air was flying in the winter from Birmingham, then they would have got our busuness as it would mean no travelling down the night before.

Why bad move? Well after booking, around march Virgin announced that they were closing the Clubhouse from Sept to Dec to refurbish it and we would be put into the V-room.
Now I am sure the V-room is better than the airport concourse, but no hot menu, just some batches (rolls for you non midlanders) no beauty/hairdressers, no quiet libraray, no shoe shine man, probably no champagne. If i had known then the BA terrace lounge would have been much better.

Anyway, money paid now, oh and by the way the UC seats on the same Virgin plane are now £5,319.70 and BA £4,903.90

Next, the car!

Laurafoster
08-17-2009, 03:56 PM
Looking forward to reading this as we are going for the same dates as you :)
Just a shame we are on the later flight!

irongirlof12
08-18-2009, 12:58 PM
oh :worship: you sure do know how to plan :thumbsup2

Obi Wan Kenobi
08-18-2009, 03:14 PM
Part 3 now the car!

OK, so I will come clean here. I have a Hertz Gold card so my preference is Hertz, however not to the detriment of my cash!

I won't go into all the car classes prices (unles you want me to! :rotfl::rotfl:)
but essentially I like BIG cars at home and on holiday. the more I can help Global warming the better! :happytv:
So, my first look was for four classes of car:
Full size
Premium
4 X 4
Specials (others)
What this normally comes down to is either a 4 x 4 like wot I drive at home, or a premium full size, but I can dream can't I?

So, again, the Internet is my friend.
a trawl through the car hire websites, 14 days full insurace. I stay away from the smaller companies as I personally have a fear of arriving at the airport and the company does not exist or has gone bust.
plus the major car hire comnpanies can do a good deal/

I started to look in April 09 and was amazed at how much the prices had gone up!
so

Hertz first :-0
Full size Taurus £407.39
Premium Lincoln Towncar £407.39
4 X 4 Chevvy Trailblazer £407.39
Other Ford mustang Hard top £436.00

Alamo (I do have the Full size and specials data available as well for them all)
Premium Buick lecerne £454.80
4X4 Chevvy trailblazer £494

Dollar
Premium Chrysler 300 £459.21
4 X4 Jeep Grand Cherokee £447.97

US rent-a-car
Premium Pontiac Bonneville £446.00
4 x 4 Dodge Durango £470

National
Premium Buick lecerne £386.34 (cheapest at this time)
4X4 Chevvy trailblazer £422.56

AVIS (I have an avis card)
Premium Lincoln Town car £446.00
4X4 Chevvy trailblazer £446

Thrifty
Premium Chrysler 300 £459.21
4X4 Jeep grand cherokee £457.98

Budget
Premium Grand Marquis £410
4X4 Jeep grand Cherokee £428.00

So, at this momenmt Hertz were the best for a 4x4 but national were the best for a Premium
but these prices were more than i wanted to pay, so idecided to play the waiting game and see how trhe prices changed
Now I won't go into every companies prices, but I did check each company for four different car sizes
Some companies, notably National and Budget seem to have ayearly price as their prices did not change at all!

June 14th
Hertz still the cheapest for 4x4 at £398.09
Thrifty Premium £380.65

June 25th
Hertz 4X4 still cheapest but gone up to £402.67
thrifty for Premium at £380.65

Part two of my car hire booking then went into action
I have found that the cheapes prices are by phoning the car hire companies up.
So I rang around
Hertz did not let me down
After looking at the best by phone (again thrifty)
I contacted Hertz
they started with the web price when I told them that i could get it cheaper at thrifty, they gave me a 10% discount for using a Mastercard and finally they offered me either the premium OR the 4X4 for £375.00 RESULT!

I had a look at the price I got a Premium for in 2008 (before having to cancel) and that was £2375.77 so prices have risen, but I am happy with the price I eventually booked for.

By booking with Hertz I also get the benefit of miles with Virgin, but more importantly, Gold Canopy at Orlando airport

What this is, is that there is no queuing, rather after collecting the luggage, out to the Hertz bus, (the drivers are great, they help load the cases onto the bus) and to the Hertz car compound. Whilst doing this, there is an electronic board running on the bus that tells me the bay in which my car is sitting, off at the canopy stop and to the bay, put the cases into the cra and drive out. Simples :banana:

So, that's the accommodation booked, the flights and the car. Whats next? oh yes, the hotel for the night before the flight at Gatwick

Obi Wan Kenobi
08-18-2009, 03:24 PM
Part 4, the night before hotel.

The normal situation is that on the Friday before the saturday flight, DW takes off the day to do the final packing (I am not allowed NEAR the cases, as i will to quote the wife "fudge them up" :rotfl:)
I go into work to clear up some last things, like do online checkin, finishing at 12:30. at which point I pick up the little'un from school and head home, where DW has the cases ready to go into the car.
Park up the main car and load up the Company car (then if it gets nicked from Gatwick, not really a problem!)
We then head on down to gatwick and stay at the Sofitel, which we like more than the Hilton.
So, again, the best price I have found is to ring the sofitel at gatwick direct
Yep, best price again. Classic room with extra childs bed plus 15 days valet parking and return to airport for £148.94 plus VAT (£171.28)

We have annula passes, so that should be it, everything that needs to be booked has been.
So now just time to relax, await November, and decide what to eat in the Virgin clubhouse and what beauty treatments to book one month before....


Well thats what i thought......:headache::headache:

cherjp
08-18-2009, 03:32 PM
popcorn::Hurry up Obi!!!!!

Obi Wan Kenobi
08-18-2009, 03:58 PM
Just to recap

Cast
Obi Wan Kenobi 50 Chief money holder and purse keeper
Princess Leia Organa, 44 DW and spender of the Jedi purse
Luke Skywalker 7, Ds and also spender of the Jedi purse which Princess Leia has left
New addition
Queen Padmé Amidala 66, Mother to Princess Leia

So, there I am, happy that everything but the beauty treatmenst are booked for our Nov/Dec holiday by June.

Then the pooh hit the fan and I don't mean Whinney!

First thing was a rumour that Virgin were closing the Gatwick clubhouse to refurbish it. great, but the date for that went past, so i thought that with the economic downturn it wasn't going to happen.
Then someoen pointed me to the Virgin holidays web site. Now, the Gatwick Clubhouse is a Virgin ATLANTIC clubhouse, in the same way that the V-Room is for Virgin holidays passengers.
But there it was, on the VH web site: "The Gatwick clubhouse will be closed from Sept to December for refurbishment" WHAT?? :scared1::scared1:
Checked the Virgin Atlantic website, nothing.
So I contacted Customer service, who confirmed the clubhouse would be closed ARRRGH! the reason for booking VA over BA had dissapeared! I was not a happy bunny! They6 then also added that we would be able to use the V-Room wow! No beauty salon, no hot restaraunt menu, no shoe cleaner, no waitress service, but what seems by the pictures on the VH website, a cafe with plastic chairs and a cash bar. Nice!
However, lucky us as UC passengers would get free alcoholic drinks, to differentiate us from the VH passengers who had paid £17 to use the lounge.
I know this sounds snobbish and ungrateful (especially to Manchester UC pax who get bugger all), but I like the fact that the Clubhouse is quiet, exclusive and the little touches that make the start of the flight special, such as the hair salon and the waitress/menu service, whereas the V-Room will be crowded, noisy and the choice of hot breakfasts is a bacon roll and a queue at the bar!
I then find out that the Revivals room has been closed so when we get back, no shower and hot brekkie before driving home!

Things could not get worse could they?
Oh yes. :confused3

One day, looking at the Virgin website they wre doing one of their sales, very nice. the prices for UC on our flight were still more than we had paid (well, we had taken the three "Z" class fares) but the PE was a good price. DW sees this and the next thing she is onto the MIL!
Now the MIL has said she won't fly long haul in Economy again (Great I thinks, that should keep the wolf away) but DW "Mum, they have great PE prices for our flight"
Wicked witch "I'll book and come with you then"
AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHH HHHHHHHH!

Now don't get me (too) wrong, the MIL is fine when she lives at her house away from mine, but she is the most awkward person to go on holiday with.
First of all, my holiday is a vacation from thinking and working to a strict timetable, I dothat every day.
MIL who has retired, is up at 6am on holiday, and by 7am is wanting to know what we are doing that day, what the schedule is etc etc.
I DON'T CARE! I'M ON HOLIDAY! :eek:

Secondly, its my fault that the comapny went bust and her daughter has to live in a smaller house, that i am not bringing little 'un up right and DW's brother can do nothing wrong, even though he has three children by different women, one failed marriage and is now living with a woman as old as her.

Thridly, she cannot eat cheese. Not really a problem you say. Oh yes, you try finding restaraunts where cheese is not a staple of the menu, so they are all rubbish according to her.
She also can find something to complain about when the meal comes as well, too hot, too cold, too salty not enough...

Oh what fun.

So, I have to book a room for her at the Sofitel, and extra £85 room only

Ah well, nothing else can go wrong can it?

Yes.
Not only has Gatwick removed the Clubhouse when i am there, they last month announced that the terminal train would be removed for refurbishment from Sept to April, but not to worry, a regualr bus shuttle would be put on.
NOT TO WORRY!!!!!!
So,, instead of leaving the Sofitel with a trolley, down the slope to the train and out thenother side, the new choice at 7:00 am is down to the terminal, down the slope to the lower level to wait for a bus, which is the only transport between terminals, so used by everyone including staff, so a busy queue outside in the cold, then after dragging the cases etc onto the bus, out the otherside, drag cases off the bus, up to the higher level.
No thank you. :headache:

So, cancelled the Sofitel and booked the Hilton, price again better by ringing them up, 15 days self park and room for us £149, plus Granny room £89.00

so hopefully, thats it.
Any other changes form the norm I will let you know.

cherjp
08-18-2009, 04:40 PM
hahahaha!!popcorn:: very funny !!

jockey
08-19-2009, 06:39 AM
Great report Obi, looking forward to more :)

Obi Wan Kenobi
08-19-2009, 03:51 PM
I am starting to get the feeling that this trip is going to be somewhat of a problematical one :happytv:

Just as I have relaxed that all is done and dusted, yet another curve ball comes out thedark to screw up my plans.
this one was really not expected!

We have two dogs and two cats, one of the dogs and one of the cats are 16 and 18 respectivly, with the dog (A Goldie) now gone deaf. Consequntially, I will NOT put them into kennels/cattery, as they have enough problems, but its not a major thing as we have a house and animal sitter, little un's aunty.
She is 60 years old, an ex nurse and unmarried.
In June she came round and announced that she had met someone, they were going to live on a barge and she could not babysit the animals anymore!

Gobsmacked would be an understatement. :scared1:

Now what to do? well, the upshot is that we have enlisted the services of a small ladies run firm of house and animal sitters, but with the extra cost of £580! less spends , but piece of mind.

Now today, Virgin have announced the removal of the free laptop power leads for the flight, so another £54 for a wall/car/air power adaptor, cheaper than Virgins air only one at £69!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kensington-Notebook-Power-Adapter-Lotus/dp/B000QJ7UAS/ref=dp_cp_ob_ce_title_2

So whats the next buggeration to come?
Delayed flights? , Redundancy? I wait with baited breath..................

Jets fan
08-25-2009, 11:27 AM
Hi Obi

Have been away for 7 weeks and am only just catching up. Love the reports, but at the top of the page it says 'New Addition' are you and Princess Leia expecting a little one or did I read it wrong.

Keep the reports coming!

Tina

carolfoy
08-28-2009, 04:49 PM
I pop onto the dis for the first in ages, so glad I stumbled across this little gem, will be watching and waiting Obi, good luck