Travel Day; And An Early Start
After a good nights sleep in what was a surprisingly comfortable; (surprising for me as I am sensitive to mattress change) bed both Donna and I awoke early. This was through excitement of travel day arriving, the forthcoming holiday that and I am an early riser.
While Donna used the bathroom I attempted the on-line check-in again, with no more luck than the night before. This surprised me; as you are meant to be able to check in online up to 70 minutes before boarding. Surprise aside I didn’t let it bother me, as today we were going to Disney World!
Both dressed and the last of our hold luggage packed away I spent some time watching the early morning planes land while Donna dried and straightened her hair. The air-side windows at the Sofitel have wide enough sills to use them as a bench making plane watching very comfortable.
Staying at an airport hotel the night before a flight was a new experience for me; I would definitely start a holiday like this again, as it provides a stress free start to any trip.
Next up on the plans for today we took the obligatory full set of luggage photograph:
For this holiday we definitely had a bit of a blue theme going on! just a shame that rolling camera bags don’t come in blue to match.
Completing the final room check to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind we made our way to reception to check out. This proved to be very easy as there was a quick checkout box for posting our room keys in. I like this method of checkout though I always worry about hotels charging my card afterwards without the ability to argue charges at the time.
Arrival at Gatwick North
Given the number of bags/cases we had between us Donna got her dream; we took an airport trolley to carry 2 of the cases. Donna had been wanting to use a trolley since we booked the holiday; I countered that with all our cases having wheels so why would we need them? However the walkway between the Sofitel and Gatwick North being both sloped and carpeted; using the trolley’s made the journey much easier.
At this point in the holiday we both tried our hands at vlogging the trip so spent some time outside the terminal recording our arrival. Spoiler alert I didn’t carry on vlogging for long. With the video recording complete some still photographs were taken of the terminal
I do have to say that the font colour and the style for Gatwick name pleases my aesthetic eye greatly. Good job Gatwick.
Check in is nice and easy and Virgin Atlantic have made it next to impossible for people to miss them:
Though we did hear people asking the Gatwick staff where check in for Virgin was!
At the time we arrived check-in was quite for all boarding classes; because of the quite nature of the human faced check-in’s we opted to use those rather than the machines under the window.
We checked-in quickly and without any issues, and after saying a bye to our luggage we headed to security. Travel day itinerary item one checked off 🙂
Security and duty free
As we had booked into the No.1 lounges we could use the premium security line. This proved to be an absolute godsend as the standard lines were taking 20+ minutes to get through.
Usually I am the one to set airport metal detectors due to having several pins in my body, this time however I was spared the additional x-ray check; though I suspect Donna may have had the “random” alarm go off so had to go through the additional check.
Coming to bag scanning however the additional security was the other way around. Both Donna’s carry on bag and handbag went through the x-ray fine. My camera bag – the one with all the electronics, went though fine as well; my rucksack – the one with clothing and soft items didn’t scan and got subjected to a “feel through” check.
With the security process complete both Donna and myself agree that it is a worthy extra cost for our future holidays.
As is becoming something of a modern theme with airport refurbishments once clearing security force you to go through World Duty Free. I’m unsure how I feel about being forced through the shop to get to the air side seating/lounges; though both Donna and I were looking forward to go through the store to look for things, so this layout has its advantages.
The big disadvantage of forcing everyone to go through though are the crowds and boy they crowded it. With the crowded nature of the shop; the large amount of people and with the high levels of perfume in the air making myself and Donna feel ill we decided to avoid browsing in their as planned. Though Donna picked some mini Toblerone up, as I’m informed they are a travel essential.
Jo Malone and construction works
Having cleared World Duty Free; we made a pact not to let our frustration at the crowded nature of the shop dampen our travel day.
Donna was after the limited edition Sakura perfume from Jo Malone so we went there to pick it up. Only to find that they didn’t stock it in airport stores 🙁
With all the construction going on to complete the refurbishment of Gatwick North there was a lack of available seating made the holding area very busy. The overall business of the airport made us very glad that we had booked into a lounge.
With the general business and after the disappointment in the shopping that we had managed so far made our way to the lounge; saving ourselves any frustration building from browsing overly busy shops and keeping happiness in the travel day feeling going.
On trying to check in to the No.1 Lounge we could hear how busy it was – we suspected they were taking a lot of walk-ups for people trying to escape the busy public areas.
Expecting the lounge to be busier than we’d hoped we approached the registration desk. On arrival the registration clerk gave us the second free upgrade of the holiday; they gave us complementary upgrade passes to the Clubrooms 😀
To get to the Clubrooms we left the regular lounge, down in the elevators to a sub level and into the Clubrooms.
The Clubrooms are amazing; though miss out on the runway views of the standard lounge the quietness and general more adult friendly decoration of the Clubrooms means I would prefer to use these lounges going forward.
The best part of this lounge is that everything is table service; and while Donna and myself were browsing the menu for breakfast we ordered a coffee and croissant each.
With the menu browsed and our minds made up we ordered our breakfast; Donna had Eggs Benedict with ham, I had the full English Breakfast:
Not in the breakfast photograph are the Buck’s Fizz’s that we ordered with our breakfast to toast to the holiday and our travel day.
While we were relaxing in the lounge we took the opportunity to catch up on some of our social media and I took a trip photograph showing my boarding card:
This type of photograph is something of a tradition for myself as I use them for a cover for holiday photograph album.
Boarding our jet plane
About 45 minutes before the gate was due to open we headed out of the lounge via the restrooms; never make the mistake of passing up a restroom before a long journey!
We then stood under the gate board for about 3-4 minutes before finally VS27 got its gate assignment and we headed towards our plane; at the other end of the terminal from the lounges.
On the way to the gate we took some photographs of our plane:
On this trip we were flying on Ladybird; and that photograph was hard to get, Gatwick airside windows were quite dirty.
Boarding quickly, we had priority boarding due to flying Premium Economy and sailing through the gate towards the plane. Moving that fast I completely missed the complimentary magazine rack.
On the plane and up the stairs to the bubble we got ourselves set up for the seven and a half hour flight. On the way to Orlando Donna had let me have the window seat so I could set up my GoPro to record the flight.
Once set up we discovered a small problem; while my new camera bag was well within the hand luggage size allowance it wouldn’t go in the overhead bin. This is a problem when flying in the bubble because of curvature of the roof. Seeing my struggle one of the flight attendants asked what was in the case. Upon finding out it was camera gear offered to put it in their own wardrobe rather than the public one.
Set up and sat in our seats we opted for a glass of Prosecco each as our pre-flight drink and made another toast to our forthcoming holiday.
With everyone boarded early we had to wait for our push back till our allotted time; though this meant that we did push back on time.
Though we pushed back on time it took a long time to taxi due to a lot of landing planes.
And now presenting the first video of this blog our Journey to Orlando:
The second the seatbelt lights went out the flight attendants started a drinks service. For this drink round I had a vodka, lemon slice and lemonade; and it came with a mini packet of pretzels 😀
Donna went for an Amarula as she has wanted to try this drink for a while but not wanted to buy a full bottle incase she didn’t like it. Verdict given she enjoyed it and will buy a full bottle in the future.
Following the drink service Donna and I started the first movie of our travel day; Hotel Artamis.
The movie was ok, it isn’t one I’d bother to watch again; looking back on it now there really wasn’t anything in it that I have remembered as a standout moment worthy of memory.
Lunch is served
About halfway through Hotel Artamis the lunch service was started.
When we had looked at the menu earlier in the flight Donna had chosen to have the Coq au vin, and myself the meatballs. But… it turns out that the meatballs seamed to be a popular choice as they had run out after serving the 10 people in front of us.
For drinks with our meals, Donna stuck to a coke, whereas I chose the red wine that was pleasantly drinkable.
I enjoyed this, and I adored the salad. But I am someone who likes walnuts and fruit in their salad without dressing.
The only disappointment in the meal the change in the desert from a GU pot to a cake square.
Finishing our lunch we started our second movie of the flight. I went for Solo – A Star Wars Story, and Donna went for I Feel Pretty.
I gave up on Solo; terrible doesn’t even begin to describe this movie. After 40 minutes I was just unable to cope any longer with the story, the wooden acting and the complete disregard for the existing lore of the character.
Haven given up on Solo I started The Incredibles 2; this was worth the wait, and I enjoyed every minute. During this film the mid flight ice creams were served – not Fab’s as expected in my opinion the superior Twirls
My final film of the flight was Hotel Transylvania 3, and found it to be much funnier than the second.
Hotel Transylvania was interrupted by afternoon tea:
Towards the end of Hotel Transylvania we hit the continental shelf and suffered the usual turbulence that goes with it. It lasted for about 30 minutes and was violent enough to illuminate the seatbelt sign.
Arrival in Orlando
Our pilot landed the plane with the smallest bump of any flight I’ve been on. If I hadn’t been waiting for it I think I’d have missed the actual touchdown. And 450 minutes after takeoff in London we had arrived early in Orlando.
The taxi to the terminal was fast, and I got the feeling the pilot wanted off the plane as much as the passengers!
One worry that I had was that the cabin crew wouldn’t hold the economy passengers downstairs to let the passengers in the bubble; but on this flight they did and we were off the plane very quickly. The advantage of getting off the plane before the majority of the economy passengers is getting to the immigration hall before the majority of people on the plane.
On this day arriving in the immigration hall quickly meant that we passed through in under 10 minutes! something of a record by all reports on the DIBB. Donna had a friendly chat with her immigration officer, with mine been more formal.
While immigration took less than 10 minutes, baggage reclaim took closer to 30 for us. The theory is the luggage comes out in the following order; Upper Class; Premium Economy; Economy. For us the luggage came off in a random order; and Upper Class bags were still loading into the carousel after we loaded ours onto a trolley.
Arriving in America
Every tip on the DIBB says to avoid the second bag drop and if you can take the luggage up the stairs yourself. For this trip there was no option to use it as it was down for maintenance; but for the people with families who would have struggled to carry their luggage the airport had provided a lot of staff to help.
Then onto the first ride of the holiday; the travel day monorail to the main terminal. We did have a little wait for our monorail to arrive; though as we had gotten through immigration quickly we only had the flight crew from our plane sharing the monorail with.
On leaving the monorail the first thing I noticed was the giant Stars and Strips hanging on the wall of the Hyatt Regency in the MCO:
I love how patriotic people in America are; it’s something that I feel is missing in the UK.
While in the atrium of course there was a stop off at the Disney Earport shop; to greet the main mouse and to take the obligatory travel day welcome to Orlando photo:
All photographs taken we undertook the trek to the Magical Express; and boy is it a trek after a transatlantic flight. That said it probably didn’t help that we started in the wrong direction as we couldn’t see the overhead directional signs. Even with the getting a bit lost to start; the Magical Express is a long way down the car hire/transfer/coach isle.
To Port Orleans Riverside!
Checking into the Magical Express was easy; helped by printing out the booking confirmation though I don’t think there would have been any issue if I hadn’t.
While checking in was easy, the wait for the bus was anything but. Looking back on it now we must have just missed a bus doing our resort run as we waited over an hour for the next one. We had avoided any tiredness during the travel day as we had kept moving. The stop and wait for the coach meant that the number of hours we had been on the go for caught up with us.
When our coach arrived, we boarded and were on the way quickly to the first of the drop offs – Saratoga Springs; this was bitter sweet as we had initially booked to stay here, but got moved to Port Orleans as Saratoga was over booked. The rest of the tour took us to Old Key West, and Port Orleans French Quarter.
By the time that our coach made it to Riverside we were one of four groups left onboard; thinking with that few people on board check in would be quick at least to make up for the wait at the airport. Again our hopes got dashed as the queue for check in was long and the staff were dealing with a couple of groups that were arguing over something.
Thankfully, after a handful of minutes a cast member came and got us from the queue and checked us in on an iPad. After confirming the booking details, she went though the resort information though at this point both Donna and I were so tired that it didn’t sink in. We opted out of Mouseservice though and got a $140 gift card in its place.
Finally, all check in done, she noticed that we had two parcels shipped there to collect. A pair of Nightmare Before Christmas Mickey Ears for Donna and a Tim Tracker t-shirt for myself to wear during Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios later in the holiday.
With Universal’s aim at the horror night been 80s B horror I thought this would work perfectly. I also love the Trackers vlogs and don’t have issues supporting vloggers who produce quality content.
Packages collected we started on the way to our room, to be offered help getting there by a bellboy who saw us struggling and took us on the fastest golf cart in the west!
A wild ride later we got to our room, tipped the bellboy $10 for his help and entered our room. Wow, was the only thing we thought. The Royal Rooms are stunning but we weren’t able to enjoy them on arrival as we were so tired.
Finally in the room, we at 4am GMT crashed fully after quick showers to get rid of travel day grime.
Until next time; Just because you grow old doesn’t mean you have to grow up