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Topic: Gone Broke Tour, Pre Trip

  1. #1
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    Default Gone Broke Tour, Pre Trip and index

    I know we don't usually do these on here, but when I started out typing up the background I found myself running to three pages!

    First the introductions, just three of us for this trip, myself, my DW Angelmouse5 and our 18 year old DS.


    All our other trips had been as part of larger groups, so it was going to be interesting to experience everything as just our family. Also this would be the first time we would be staying in a hotel and a condo, with all our other trips being villa based.

    The planning for this started out of the blue late one evening last October with a phone call from my sister, SK to tell me about some amazing fares on offer from a new carrier starting up direct transatlantic routes into Fort Lauderdale, Norwegian Air. It was so late that I was already in bed, but taking a quick look on my iPad I could see flights for just 179 each way!

    Now our financial situation meant that we really were not looking at a holiday at all of 2014, let alone a Florida holiday, BUT, those fares couldn't be ignored. Angelmouse and I spoke about it for a while and decided we should book. Our finances were so bad it was possible we'd go bust in 2014 anyway, so we may as well go bust after a good holiday.

    DS was supposed to be starting uni this year, so we had the chance to go just outside of school holidays with the universities not starting until mid to late September. I looked at how long it was going to take to get from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando and the flight times and realised we would effectively loose a day off the start of the trip and so went for 18 days rather than 14. Norwegian only fly Mondays and Fridays, so I didn't want to come home Monday night and eat into another week off work. We booked Monday August 25th to Friday September 12th.

    In the heat of the moment I tried to book, but their site wouldn't process my card. I tried again and it failed again, and again. Deciding it was not to be and having a sensible moment about money we turned the lights off and went to sleep....

    Next morning having had a night to think about it and realising it had been 4 years since I had had any real holiday I tried to book again, this time the site worked, but our outbound flights had gone up a whole 20 each. In total for all three adults we paid 1,320.70, including booked seats, meals and baggage, or about what Virgin wanted each!


    Now to accommodation. Our first night we were not due to land until 8:30 pm in Fort Lauderdale, so I didn't fancy the 3-3.5 hour drive that night. I've got quite a few points with Holiday Inn so I looked to see what I could get where on points. All the airport hotels wanted stupid amounts, so I started looking along our route and sure enough found a Holiday Inn Express in Boca Raton about half an hour up the I95 for a much more sensible rate.

    We knew we wanted to stay onsite at Universal, so decided to book 3 nights to leave us with a 'standard' 14 nights to find somewhere else. After a lot of searching I found a rate I was happy with at the Hard Rock hotel.

    When I booked the flights I had posted about it and about the need to find cheep accommodation. A short while later I got a private message from an online friend offering us their timeshare points if we paid the fees. Bit of back and forth later about where we could and where we wanted to stay saw me making a bank transfer for several hundred pounds to someone on the other side of the world who I'd never met. I must admit to having a wobble and wondering if they would simply disappear and I'd never see the money again, but within a few minutes I'd got a guest certificate in my email for 14 nights at the WestGate Lakes Resort and Spar on Turkey Lake Road. We paid less than a third of what I'd seen the resort offered for anywhere online, so were very happy.

    An intermediate SUV was booked through Alamo/Brits and then rebooked twice in the run up as their prices dropped, saving us around 120 in total over the original price. We needed the SUV as AngleMouse suffers from a back and stomach complaint that stops her walking long distances and so we have to hire an ECV, that has to fit in the back of the car. The ECV was booked from Sun Mobility as they were by far the cheapest quote we got for an 18 day hire.

    Tickets were booked through ATD because I've always had great service from them and they price matched some slightly lower prices I saw elsewhere. We went for their combination ticket, which is actually three separate tickets. The 14 Day Ultimate for Disney, the 14 day Universal Two Parks and the 14 day SeaWorld/Busch Gardens/Aquatica. This combination really worked for us as it gave us the flexibility we needed with AngleMouse's condition. She often can only manage a short time in the parks before needing to rest, with these tickets we could come and go as we wanted without feeling we were wasting a day's entrance. By being careful with when we started each separate ticket we were able to span them across the 18 nights no problem. A few weeks later we added the KSC Space Pass as well having seen so many great reports on the changes there since out last trip in 2009. It is safe to say we spent more on park tickets than we did on flights, but I'm not paying to go all that way to Florida and then not go to all the parks!

    In among all this planning it was DS's 18th birthday in early November. Originally he had wanted a DSLR camera and so I had spoken to friends and family asking for contributions toward a good one for him. One evening he appeared in my home office and announced he had changed his mind, little knowing I had almost ordered the camera earlier that day when a customer phone call had interrupted my browsing! He went on to explain he now wanted to visit Cedar Point in Ohio (home to some of the biggest and best roller coasters on the planet) since we were going to the US. He had looked at internal flight prices and didn't think it would cost much more to go than the camera would have cost. Having always wanted to go there myself I didn't take much persuading and so called round friends and family again to explain I still wanted cash off them, but now for something completely different.

    Once Cedar Point announced their opening hours in the spring we settled on going up there on our first weekend, which also happened to be the Labour Day weekend. With them going to winter opening hours immediately after that weekend we didn't have much choice. Flights were booked with Spirit Airlines (US version of Ryan Air) from Orlando International to Detroit and because it was his birthday treat I booked their 'Big Front Seats' for us. These are basically two rows of PE style seats at the front of the plane, just two of them either side of the aisle rather than three and much more leg room. We would fly up Saturday evening and back on Monday morning, spending all day Sunday at the park.

    Once park tickets were available I booked these and parking online, also booking their Fast Lane queue jumping passes. The Fast Lane passes were not cheap by any means at $100 each, but with it being the holiday weekend and probably the only visit we will ever make to Cedar Point I thought they would be worth it.

    Once again my Holiday Inn points got us a Holiday Inn Express in a place called North Fremont about half way between the airport and the park, in the middle of nowhere on the side of the turnpike.

    A two door economy car was booked, again with Alamo/Brits, something that would come back to bite us on the night...

    With everything booked it was just a case of trying to save some spending money and waiting for the dates to roll round. For spending we set ourselves a tight budget of $150 a day and basically changed every spare bit of cash we had as and when we got it. This meant that for some of our money we got 1.40 to the pound and for others 1.70, but it worked for us. I'm happy to say we hit our target with a couple of months to go and were able to change a little bit more for shopping etc.

    Day 1 Traveling is here.

    Full index is here.
    Last edited by spencem; 17-09-2019 at 03:42 PM.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


  2. #2
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    Great start - and great planning! Quite a major DIY holiday puzzle to solve - and big kudos to your ATD friends for the Westgate points!! ;)

  3. #3
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    What a lot of work to make it all come together, but hopefully it was well worth the effort. And another big 'thumbs up' for your Friends and their Westgate points

    Looking forward to more!












    Midlife: when the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you Im not messing around, use the gifts you were given.

  4. #4
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    What a great intro and insight to your holidays. Big thumbs up to your fiends for offering you their points.

    Looking forward to the rest of your trip.

  5. #5

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    That certainly is an amazing price for the flights. Look forward to reading more!

  6. #6
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    It's funny how things just seem to come together right. That is a very good price for the flights.
    Interested to hear about the economy car in Ohio.....

  7. #7
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    Some major planning you had but with it when it all comes together
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  8. #8
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    Wow what amazing planning. Well done to you.

    Looking forward to reading your trip reports.

  9. #9
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    I was only being a kind loving big sister in pointing out the cheap flights
    But seriously, was pleased that all the planning came off

  10. #10
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    It is nice that everything kind of fell together. Some things are just meant to happen. I can't wait to read about your trip to Sandusky. One of my best friends lives there and actually works at Cedar Point.

    Corinna





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