The First Time – Pre-Trip Report 2011

As I came to index all of my blog posts from the past 2 or so years, I realised that whilst I shared my trip report for our first visit to Walt Disney World, I didn’t actually post my pre-trip report, that I also wrote! So, here it is. Of course, it is all dated now, but it shows the planning that we had before even stepping foot onto Floridian soil! This post was originally written on 18th May 2011


Pre-Trippie Index

  • The Cast – Who We Are!
  • Transportation – Big Country, Big Car!
  • Accommodation – Our Digs for Three Weeks!
  • Tickets – Precious Pieces of Paper!
  • Theme Parks – Gonna Do Them All! Part One
  • Theme Parks – Gonna Do Them All! Part Two
  • Dining Out (and in) – ADRs, Restaurants and Take Outs, oh my!
  • Shopping – Stuff I plan on buying!

I thought it was about time I got this pre-trip report on the go – the days are rushing by so quickly this year and we’re already into double digits! I’ve already taken the step of writing one trip report when hub’s and I visited Disneyland Paris (DLP) in August 2010 and hoping that I can maintain my diary whilst in Florida to write a full trip report for our first trip to Orlando this August.

Having never written a pre-trip report before, I did a bit of swotting up to see what sorts of things people write and have sat on the idea that I need to do this for a few days now. Having found a spare moment between working (I’m self-employed), trying to organise our home (we’re decorating) and wasting time on t’internet (The Dibb and Facebook) I present to you the opening chapter for our first trip to Orlando (and hopefully not the last!).

I guess I should start by introducing us all. ‘Us all’ being myself, my husband and our 12 year old son.

The Cast

Me – Michelle, 34 years old and a plus size chick who is on the shrink, having lost 4 stone this year with another 2 off planned by the time we go. Have loved Disney since year dot and remember fondly watching all the movies growing up (and still watch them! My favourite movies are Robin Hood, The Fox & The Hound and Sleeping Beauty…who am I kidding? They’re all my favourites!) I have always wanted to visit Orlando, and nearly did in 2003, which sadly fell through due to finances and have been making plans (in my head!) to get there ever since.

This is me taken last week at our Eurovision party

Him – Steve, 38 years old and I think even more excited than me about going to Florida! Wants to try many American delicacies including catfish and corndogs (among other things!) and even started his own thread here on the Dibb to ask for people’s suggestions on what he should try

This is him taken last year in Pizza Planet at DLP.

The boy – my son and Steve’s step-son, Liam, 12 years old and very excited about visiting Orlando. Whilst he seems to have grown out of Disney and I think will enjoy the Universal parks more, his face does light up when we watch the planning DVDs so keeping my fingers crossed that he loves the World as much as I am anticipating us all to!

This is him taken at the start of the year.

How the plans were put in motion…

Last spring I started making noises about wanting to go to America again. I’ve been to Houston, Texas (in 1994 with my dad) and loved every minute of it. I love the American culture and always hoped I’d get back there one day. As I mentioned previously I had a trip to Orlando planned (and booked) with my son (after splitting with his dad) and my friends and their little girl. But sadly it fell through when I realised I just wasn’t going to be able to afford it . I joined the Dibb (a Disney forum) to show Steve how serious I was about getting to America – more specifically Florida . I started researching flights, and villas and working out how much it would potentially cost and if we could afford it…tied in with making sure Steve could get 3 weeks off work! Before we knew it we had found a lovely Dibb villa and checked for availability. It was free in August (we are tied to the school holidays) and the owners we kind enough to hold it for us until we could book flights. After matching up days, the flights were booked, the deposit paid for on the villa and the planning could really start! My sister and her husband said that they would like to come too; they love them a bit of travelling and as we had a villa booked, it would save them some money on accommodation as well. They’ll no doubt do their own thing!

Steve and I were celebrating our 1st wedding anniversary on 5th August 2010, and had a trip to Paris planned, what with joining the Dibb and Orlando really on the cards, I thought it would be a shame to go all the way to Paris and not visit the Mouse…so we did. We both thought it was great and it made us even more excited for Walt Disney World (WDW)

When do we go?

As it happens, we’re out in Florida for our 2nd wedding anniversary. We will be going for 3 glorious weeks of sunshine, fun and memories. We leave Blighty on 4th August having stayed at the Gatwick Hilton the night before. Steve has to work on the 3rd, but is able to leave a little earlier. We plan on getting to Gatwick for about 7ish, check in, have a bite to eat, do twilight check-in and then not sleep through excitement!

Our flights are with Virgin at 11:15am, landing in sunny Orlando at 3:25pm. With iPod, DSi and magazines in hand, hope that the flight will go quickly. It’s the one thing that I know was putting Steve off, but I did an 11 hour flight to Houston, so not panicking too much about it. I figure we’ll watch a bit of IFE, sleep a bit, read a bit, eat a bit, walk around the cabin a bit and before we know it will be making our descent!

Transportation

Big Country, Big Car!

As we booked a Fly-Drive with Virgin a car was included. Now, the n00bs that we are, we upgraded to one of these bad boys:

A Ford Galaxy (or similar!) A mid-size SUV.

When we got the confirmation through for the flights etc, I noticed that the car hire ran out on the 11th August – a week after we had been there, I was in a panic thinking I’d only booked flights for a week as well! After posting a thread on the Dibb about what we should do – upgrade to 3 weeks with Virgin, or go elsewhere, the general consensus seemed to be to go elsewhere…and after talking to Virgin and them wanting something silly like an extra £500 we took the Dibb’s advice

We had read about USRentACar and went there first. There was an offer on at the time that we booked, I think some money off, as well as an upgrade when you are out there. Since I wanted a nice big car, we opted for a full size 4 door, with the upgrade to a premium 4 door. Now, all I know at this time is that our car is possibly a Ford Taurus (or similar ) We got that for £325 for 2 weeks, and I *think* we got a great deal.

Who’s Driving?

I passed my driving test when I was 17 and know that I’m a confident driver (now at the age of 34 ) and am totally up for driving in the States. Steve is insured to drive out there as well, but I would imagine, like in the UK, I will do most of the driving. Once I get behind that wheel of an automatic car (OMG, I can’t wait! I hate manual cars!) I don’t think there will be any stopping me.

I’m not worried about driving out there at all – I’m doing my best to familiarise myself with their rules – like turning right on red – which weirded me out when I first read about it, then remembered that they drive on the other side of the road . I’m also not worried about driving on their freeways. I have read on the Dibb how people commented how busy they were, how fast and close people drive – but the M25 is my local motorway, and if I can safely navigate that at 70MPH, I’m confident that I’ll be fine with the I-4.

Although, time will tell, I might get out there, have a freak out and be a gibbering wreck and refuse to drive… /sarcasm

All in all, the driving is what I’m really looking forward to – the big car, the automatic, the big roads… in short, I love driving!

Accommodation

Our Digs for Three Weeks!

The first thing I looked for whilst booking our holiday was a villa, and it was a Dibb villa that we have actually booked. I’m never sure if we are allowed to mention which one, so won’t post it until I get the okay to do so

I figured a villa was the most cost effective of options for us – hotels just seem to be so expensive, and I like that home from home feel. I also like that we’ll be able to wash our clothes through, thus not having to take so many and saving precious space for all the goodies I plan on bringing home!

Our villa is absolutely gorgeous looking in the pictures we’ve seen, and the owners have been really kind and helpful in the process as well. I can’t wait to see the villa in real life! Not long now – only 62 days!

Tickets

Precious Pieces of Paper!

OMG – we are officially at the one month to go mark!

And also realised I’ve not touched my pre-trippy for about a month

But I’m back to try and finish it off before we go…and then have to keep a diary for our first Florida trippie

So, onto tickets…we are going to Orlando for 3 weeks.

When we booked our flights with Virgin there was an offer of free Universal passes for 14 days – touch! and saved us a couple hundred quid We’ve double checked that we were eligible for this offer, and so expect the tickets to turn up when our plane tickets arrive. So no ticket pics for this one – enjoy a Universal image instead!

As I said, we’re going for 3 weeks, and figured that we wouldn’t make full use out of a 21 day Disney pass, so went for a 14 day one instead. We bought all our remaining tickets from Attraction Tickets Direct.

They couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly When we bought our tickets, they were having a buy 7 days get 7 days free offer on when we purchased ours. All our tickets came on May 18th, about a week after we paid the final balance. I know the date because it was my ‘photo of the day’ in my Project 365.

In addition to Disney and Universal we decided to also go to Discovery Cove – we bought the ultimate tickets to include SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.

Just took a pic with Instagram of our tickets!

Our swim is right towards the end of the holiday, but we’ll activate Seaworld and Busch Gardens 14 days before that so we can fit them in! We have also booked the Serengeti Safari at Busch.

And, I think…that’s it! Might book a Penguin Tour at Seaworld if we can fit it in!

Theme Parks

Gonna Do Them All!
Part One

We’re in Florida for 3 weeks, so figured we should be able to fit all the theme parks into that time. We’re not overly mad on big rides, so if we miss some out it’s not going to be the end of the world for us, and we also know with the heat that our days might be somewhat limited…and whilst this is being billed as a ‘holiday of a lifetime, probably never do it again’ kind of thing, I secretly think, we probably will, and that if we don’t do everything it’s not going to matter as we’ll be back there one day

Our plan of attack, as it were, is to look through the guide book, decide which rides we simply MUST DO, and then work our way from there. As I said, we’re not bothered about the huge scary rollercoasters so I know at Seaworld we can give things like Manta and Kraken a miss for example.

We have filled in a planner on the Dibb, and aren’t being too militant about it, it’s to give us a guide to make sure we at least do every park once.

Our first full day is the 5th August – our 2nd wedding anniversary and we’re planning on going to Universal Studios as an all day thing.

Universal Studios

Must dos for us here include:

  • Shrek 4D
  • Twister
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Disaster
  • Jaws
  • Simpsons Ride
  • Men in Black
  • T2

We’d also like to be able to watch The Blues Brothers, BeetleJuice Graveyard Revue and the Horror Make Up Show

Islands of Adventure

Must dos here include:

  • The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
  • Popeye & Blut’s Bilge Rat Barges
  • Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure

I imagine the Suess Landing will be fun to walk around, and we’ll hop on rides there if we have the time, and I know that there are some shows that we’ll try and catch. Additionally I must go to cinnabon and we quite fancy the sound of Mythos for some food!

We plan to hit IOA twice – once for Harry Potter and all its wizarding goodness, and then the rest of the park on another day.

I think I’m not going to be able to ride the Forbidden Journey due to my still fat ass, but I’ll give the test seat and try and see what happens. I know what hubs is like though – he won’t go on it without me, but I may have to force him. My son isn’t that mad on Harry Potter, so probably won’t be bothered, but at the very least I want to hang out in Hogsmeade and go in all the shops!

Next up is Seaworld, and one of the parks I’m most looking forward to!

I think for us, this is going to be mainly a ‘look at all the animals’ park! For rides, I’ve jotted down Journey to Atlantis…and that’s it The rest will be the shows and exhibits, plus if we can, a meal in Shark’s Underwater Grill – my son LOVES sharks, and I’m hoping that this will be a highlight for him We’re also going to book the Penguin Encounter – I ♥ penguins!

And finally, for this part of the Theme Park section of my pre-trippie is Busch Gardens.

Again, there are some big rides here that we’ll be giving a miss, but on my must-do ride list includes:

  • Stanley Falls Log Flume
  • Tidal Wave Tanganyika
  • Congo River Rapids
  • Rhino Rally

Plus all the exhibits and shows! We’ve also booked to go on a Serengeti Safari which should be great fun.

Disney & Discovery Cove in the next part!

Theme Parks

Gonna Do Them All!
Part Two

One of our very last days in Florida will be a visit to Discovery Cove

We have got a swim with the dolphins booked…I can’t remember what I’ve read on the Dibb about the best time to book the swim for – I’m guessing early on so we’re not clock watching too much?

I LOVE the water and can’t wait to snorkle in the Tropical Reef! Or take a peek at the rays, or see all the birds in the Explorer’s Aviary. I’m sure that this day will be a big highlight of the whole holiday!

We also plan a trip to Gatorland – my friend told me it’s really boring, and I’ve read mixed reviews…but my son just LOVES gators, and we can hardly go all the way to the gator capital of the world and not visit?!

And finally…the big one… WALT DISNEY WORLD!

Our planner tells me that our first Disney park is going to be Hollywood Studios

On our list of must dos are:

  • The Great Movie Ride
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Star Tours II
  • Muppet vision 3D
  • Lights, Motors, Action!
  • Toy Story Mania (get a fastpass! )
  • The Magic of Disney Animation
  • Beauty & the Beast live on stage
  • Block Party Bash parade
  • Fantasmic

We’ve got an Fantasmic Package ADR for Hollywood & Vine on the day that we go and hope to fit all this lot in in an afternoon and evening as this is the day we have to swap our hire car over :| If not, we can always go back another day.

Next up is Animal Kingdom

My list tells me, we must do the following things:

  • It’s Tough to be a Bug
  • The Tree of Life
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
  • kali River Rapids
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Expedition Everest
  • Dinosaur
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical
  • Mickey’s Jammin Jungle Parade
  • Tusker House Restaurant (ADR)

I also hear that this park is even hotter than all the rest, so this might be a cut it short and do it over two days park!

Another 2-dayer will be Epcot.

We’ll tackle World Showcase on another day, as it seems silly to try and rush through everything in one day.

I am definitely going to make sure we go and watch Captain EO. Saw it at DLP last year and as an Michael Jackson fan, I can’t wait to see it again I’m also guessing we’ll make a mad dash to Soarin’ for a FP and then take in everything else as we walk around.

Same for the World Showcase – definitely want to make sure I get to see Japan – it may be the closest I’ll ever get to actually visiting the place! We’ve got an ADR booked at Teppan Edo which we’re all looking forward to.

And finally, it’s the daddy – Magic Kingdom!

This is what epitomizes Disney for me – seeing that castle as we walk down the street to the main hub – I remember how I felt when we were in DLP, and you know, I’m getting a bit emotional typing this! Something about Disney does that to me! I think I cry at every Disney movie I watch :’)

Maybe we should do this park earlier on in our holiday, or maybe it doesn’t really matter, but I know that as soon as I see that castle I’ll be an emotional wreck! I know my son is past the Disney phase now of his childhood but I am sure he’s going to be as excited as us when he sees that castle for the first time.

So, the must-dos for Magic Kingdom include:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Splash Mountain
  • Big Thunder Mountain
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • All the parades
  • All the shows
  • All the shops

Typing this up, and having the countdown drop below 20 days has gotten me so excited and I can’t wait!

Dining Out (and in)

ADRs, Restaurants and Take Outs, oh my!

If you’ve been reading my pre-trippie, you will know that I’m on a diet, a pretty strict one (Cambridge Weight Plan) and have hit my 5 stone target – had hoped to lose 6 stone by the time we go, but I doubt very much I’ll do that in two weeks and I’ve got to up my calories a bit now so that my body doesn’t go into shock when I eat ‘normally’ again, and by normally, I mean food with salt and fat in, as they’ve been very low in my diet for the last 6 months.

So, it’s been a bit of a weird part of the planning for me this part, as we love eating out, we can’t wait to try American diners and pop into the supermarket and buy American produce, but at the same time I don’t want to go nuts, and 1) give myself gallstones, or 2) put on too much weight as I’ve got my birthday party 3 weeks after we come back and a lot of people coming won’t have seen me since I started this and I want people to be all O_O

So with the best will in the world, I’ll be taking some of my packs out with me – to have as a breakfast or lunch, and share meals with my husband, or just order a side dish…it’s going to be tough for me as I will want to go nuts, but at the same time, I physically *can’t* go nuts!

So… we’ve booked a bunch of ADRs – we went a little mad with them, I think because it was something we could do so far in advance and if we change our minds, I know we can cancel them. We also went through the Brit’s Guide and jotted down restaurants that we liked the sound of and are making plans to go to as many of them as we can. In short, even though we’re staying in a villa, we’ll probably be eating out most of the time – with the exception that I want to get a Chinese take-out with the pots like you see in the movies lol!

Our Advance Dining Reservations are as follows:

  • Paradiso 37 – this is where we are going for our 2nd wedding anniversary
  • Bongo’s Cuban Cafe (dinner)
  • Trails End (dinner)
  • Hollywood & Vine (late lunch/early dinner) Fantasmic package
  • T-Rex Cafe (late lunch)
  • Ohanas (dinner)
  • Teppan Edo (early dinner)
  • Rainforest Cafe
  • Crystal Palace (late lunch)
  • Tusker House (character breakfast)
  • Chef Mickey’s (character breakfast)

As to other restaurants/diners etc we’ve got on our list:

  • Golden Corral
  • Mythos (IOA)
  • Sonny’s BBQ Pit
  • Tijuana Flats
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co
  • Fudruckers
  • Dennys
  • IHOP
  • Steak n Shake
  • Bahama Breeze
  • Red Lobster
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Shark’s Underwater Grill

Whether we’ll get to go to all these dining establishments will all be told in my trip report when we return ^_^

Shopping

Stuff I plan on buying!

Am looking forward to shopping when we get to the USA. When I went with my dad in ’94 to Texas, he wouldn’t let me buy very much stuff But I’m a grown up now and can buy what I want and go into the shops that I want too (he wouldn’t let me go into a Walmart ) I only wanted to see what an American supermarket was like lol!

So first stop will be Walmart to buy some goodies for the folks back home – I’ve got a list of food products from my family who have been to the States and need them! I’ve got Lucky Charms and Butterfingers and other candy and chocolates (I’m guessing it’s okay to bring this stuff back?) And I’m praying that they’ll have started to stock canned pumpkin, which according to my American chums is seasonal, but I NEED it for a recipe I saw on Food Network!!

I also plan on getting to a cake supply store, to get some sprinkles and cupcake cases that I can’t get over here. Same for going to Michael’s for crafting goodies.

I’m not overly fussed about clothes shopping, but I’m sure we’ll pick up a few items whilst we’re there. I also have an ‘order’ from a friend for a giant Disney bath towel!
We packed our cases last night…

…seems our cat, Pumpkin wants to come with us!

On weighing all our cases, we come in at 12kg, 15kg and 16kg, so more than enough room to bring stuff home! And a lot of that stuff won’t be coming home – like toiletries, so even more room!

As far as my pre-trip report goes, I think this is it – I think I’ve covered all the bases and now it’s just on a countdown until we go! Can’t believe it is so close – we can’t wait!


With the pre-trip report read, why not head over to read about our first time visit to Orlando!