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Old 04-28-2008, 09:53 AM   #1
wilma-bride
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Fred, Wilma and Family do Disney - Getting there (eventually)

Getting there aka The Incredible Journey

Wednesday 9th April and Thursday 10th April

If you have ever seen Disney’s The Incredible Journey (also known as Homeward Bound, I think) you will begin to understand just how incredibly long and arduous our voyage to Disney World was. Day 1 of this two-day epic sees our intrepid travellers finishing up the packing (4 suitcases for 5 people – not bad going, I reckon), cleaning the house and heading off to Gatwick via the Ivy House Cattery, where we dropped our little feline friend off for his own two-week vacation.

We arrived at Gatwick at about 3 pm, where we parked up at the Hilton and checked in. We had booked two rooms; one was a family room for me, Gary, Sian and Rea with 15 days parking (booked via Superbreak with 10% Civil Service discount) and the second a King room with rollaway bed for Chuck, Reeny and Daniel (booked with Tesco Clubcard Deals vouchers - includes breakfast but no parking). Chuck and Reeny had not yet arrived (they were travelling by train from Norwich) so we took our bags up to the room and then went to take the car to the Summer Special car park.

When we got back, the in-laws had arrived and were waiting for us in the lobby. We went up to their room with them, to have a nosy, then went back to our room to get our luggage and then met the others back in the lobby. We walked over to the terminal where we did Twilight Check In. There was a bit of a wait, which we had never experienced at Twilight Check-in but after about 15 minutes we were checking in. I asked the guy how much of a delay we were going to have the following day, at which point he confirmed my worst fears and informed us that our flight was ‘currently due to depart at 1730’. So, a 5 hour delay – not the best start but, to be honest, we were expecting it so at least it wasn’t too much of a shock. I asked him if we’d still got our pre-booked seats and he confirmed we had. Check in finished, it was off to Travelex to pick up the spends and then upstairs to Gatwick Village, where we had dinner at Frankie and Benny’s.

During dinner, the girls went off to the toilet. When they returned, they told me they’d met a DISser in the toilet. I assumed it must be Terri (AaronandTerri on the boards) and asked what she’d said. They told me she’d asked them if their Mum was called Joh and they’d said ‘Yes’ but, typically, they hadn’t spoken to her much more than that. As we were leaving, the girls spotted Terri and her family sitting across the room so we wandered over to say ‘Hi’. We chatted for a while and then went back to the Hilton. Chuck, Reeny and Daniel went off to their own room and we settled down, watched telly and tried to sleep.

Early the next morning, I was wide awake after a very troubled night’s sleep. For some reason, I was panicking that there were going to be further delays and the prospect of a whole day stuck in the departure lounge was filling me with dread. I quickly dressed and wandered over to the South Terminal, where I checked with the Virgin desk as to the current status of the flight. I was again told that we were due to depart at 1730. At least it hadn’t got any worse!

Back at the Hilton, Gary and the girls were awake and we discussed tentative plans for the day, given that we had plenty of time to kill. We decided that we would join Chuck, Reeny and Daniel for breakfast, then wander over to the terminal and see if we could get booked in to one of the lounges.

Plans made, we got ready and waited for the in-laws to phone and say they were up. They did this shortly after 8 and we arranged to meet them downstairs at 9. Breakfast was a standard buffet – there was nothing out of the ordinary, tea and coffee was brought promptly (although it took several requests to get refills). Daniel hardly ate anything (thank goodness his brekkie was free) and the rest of us partook in a full English and various pastries and cereals. Mother managed to set fire to her toast, to our acute horror! When we left, I assumed that our breakfasts would be charged to the room so was surprised when I was dragged almost forcibly back to the podium to pay for my breakfast. I handed over my credit card and nearly died when I saw the receipt - £74!!!! For 4 breakfasts!!!! Needless to say, that is the last time we will ever be eating breakfast (or any meal) at the Hilton. After returning to our room and speaking to the credit card company, to arrange an increase of my credit limit we checked out of the Hilton and wandered over to the Terminal. Security was pretty fast (typical when we’re not actually in a hurry!) and we were through to departures by 11 am. The in-laws were in favour of the lounge idea and so we headed for the Servisair Lounge and, to our delight, were allowed in for the princely sum of £134, which Chuck kindly paid. Great – we haven’t even left the airport and already we’re over £200 lighter.

Seeing as this part is fairly light on pictures, here are a couple of us in the lounge (spot the disappearing child )





Time passed fairly quickly in the lounge. Daniel kept asking if every plane he saw was our plane until Gary pointed out a Virgin Atlantic plane and told him we were going on one like it. After that, it was only every time he saw a VA plane that he asked (and, luckily (or not, as the case may be), they were few and far between). A while later I paid a visit to the information desk, to enquire if we would be given some kind of refreshment vouchers to compensate for our delay. We were given £15 each in vouchers that we could use for food and drink anywhere except WHSmith. At around 4 pm, we went to Garfunkels for some tea, which we paid for with our vouchers. We also bought some drinks and cookies from the bakery place (can never remember the name) and then gave away the remaining £20 vouchers to an unsuspecting family heading into Garfunkels. They looked at us like we were from outer space when we explained what we were giving them but they did take them so I hope they were able to put them to good use. We returned to the lounge for a little while before, finally, we saw the gate had been announced for our flight. We made our way down and joined a massive queue of people waiting to get in to the gate seating area. Eventually we boarded and, after what seemed like for ever, we were eventually airborne at 1835. We’re on our way!!!

I am not even going to begin to try and talk about the flight – it was, without a doubt one of the worst flights ever. There was no entertainment throughout the whole flight – apparently, the engineers had tried to fix the problem but didn’t want to delay us any longer (fair point, well presented). The cabin crew announced they would have games and competitions for the kids – this never happened, and the closest they came to providing any sort of entertainment was at 10:30 pm, when they disturbed an almost-asleep Daniel to hand him a pack of Power Rangers Trump cards – cheers Virgin!!! We were given compensation letters, offering us 3 options: 1) £25 off a future Virgin Holidays booking. 2) £25 discount on pre-ordered duty free goods on a future VA flight 3) 5000 flying club miles. It still remains to be seen whether we can use the £25 discounts on a Flydrive or in conjunction with teh 10% we get with VH as Flying Club members but we shall see. As with most of these things, I suspect they're worth no more than the paper they're printed on

Anyway, back on the never-ending journey, we finally landed at 10:15 pm Orlando time, more or less straight through security (love that right-hand queue trick), picked up baggage and off to get the rental car. We had joined Dollar Express and were told that, even though, we had rented through Virgin Holidays, we could still use the Express card at the Virgin queue. Not so! When we arrived at the queue, there were about 5 people in front of us. I showed the Virgin Rep our Dollar Express card and asked her where we should go, only to be told ‘there’s only a short queue, surely you can wait!’ So wait we did. We eventually got our paperwork and were escorted down to the garage to collect our Ford Econoline 8-seater van. What a beast!

Finally, we were on our way to Disney World. We managed not to get lost, despite me having to navigate in the dark again – and arrived at the Wilderness Lodge at 11:50 pm. We checked in, collected our Keys to the World and a Birthday button for Rea and were finally in our room, a dedicated 2-bedroom villa, just before 1 am. As we were staying in two different resorts over the fortnight, we had decided that Gary and I should have the master bedroom for the first week and Chuck and Reeny would have the master over at Old Key West. They decided that, for the first week, they would share the second bedroom with Daniel rather than brave the bed settee in the lounge. Havign shared a room with Daniel vbefore, I wasn't sure how wise this decision was - but only time will tell.

We were absolutely exhausted but I still managed to take a few pictures (much to the in-laws and Gary’s disgust) before we settled down for the night.

Master bedroom



Master bathroom (one part)





Master bathroom (second part)



Second bedroom



Dressing area adjoining second bedroom



Second bathroom



I took loads more photos but I'm sure you don't want to see the washer/dryer or closets

Tomorrow is Rea’s Birthday and we have a busy day planned – I wonder if we’ll last that long!!!
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Old 04-28-2008, 09:59 AM   #2
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Good to see you have started your trippie, the breakfast at the hilton seems just as overpriced as the glass of wine my mum had on our visit

What a horrible journey....still you are on your way to WDW so that sort of takes the edge off
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Old 04-28-2008, 10:09 AM   #3
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Hurrah, Joh is writing her trippie! What an awful journey and no entertainment - You must have thought you were never going to get there. The villa, however, looks gorgeous

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Old 04-28-2008, 10:17 AM   #4
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Ooh your trippie,i have been waiting for this.What a nightmare start to the journey-but thankfully you arrived safely.What's the right hand side trick?I won't tell anyone .Pics of the room look lovely.Can't wait for the next installment.x.(p.s yes it is also known as Homeward Bound-i love them films)
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Old 04-28-2008, 10:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowy-girls View Post
What's the right hand side trick?
The right-hand side trick is not really a trick, just a tip. When you get to immigration at Orlando International, head to the furthermost queue on the right that UK visitors are allowed to use. When all the US residents have been processed, the immigration officers will usually start to call people over from the next line along (the one you are in) so you invariably get through quicker. This only works at Orlando International, though, not Sanford.
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Old 04-28-2008, 10:32 AM   #6
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Wow Joh, what a journey. At least you arrived safely and I hope everything goes well from now on

I look forward to your next installment
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Old 04-28-2008, 10:36 AM   #7
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Sorry about the horrid journey Joh, I hope it gets better.
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Old 04-28-2008, 10:59 AM   #8
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Shame about the journey, glad you got there at last! You can use the £25 voucher as well as the 10% discount, we did when we got the vouchers one time.
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Old 04-28-2008, 11:26 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wilma-bride View Post
The right-hand side trick is not really a trick, just a tip. When you get to immigration at Orlando International, head to the furthermost queue on the right that UK visitors are allowed to use. When all the US residents have been processed, the immigration officers will usually start to call people over from the next line along (the one you are in) so you invariably get through quicker. This only works at Orlando International, though, not Sanford.
Thanks Joh .x.
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Old 04-28-2008, 11:51 AM   #10
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Have you ever noticed, Joh, how much more there is to tell when things don't go to plan? Everyone in your group seemed to take the delayed departure and no entertainment system on the plane (yikes!) in stride. Must be that famous English stiff upper lip.

You know how delighted I am to see the photos of your rooms at the Villas. Villas or Lodge (I'm familiar with and love both), it's Wilderness Lodge and I hope to read that you enjoyed staying at my favorite resort.
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Old 04-28-2008, 12:40 PM   #11
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What a horriblejourney, but the villa liiks gorgeous!
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Old 04-28-2008, 01:12 PM   #12
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Not the best journey but the villa looks lovely. Looking forward to reading more.
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Old 04-28-2008, 01:38 PM   #13
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Welcome home Joh

Glad to see you have started your report so promptly - good girl.

Sorry to hear about your horrendous journey - still as they say "things can only get better" - I hope that's the case

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Old 04-28-2008, 01:44 PM   #14
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Dreadful journey Joh, but great start to you trippie and cant wait to read more
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Old 04-28-2008, 02:06 PM   #15
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An overpriced brekfast , a nightmare of a journey , BUT a trip to the best place in the world , can't wait to read more
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