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Topic: Special Family Holiday Day 1

  1. #1
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    Default Special Family Holiday Day 1

    The time has come to start the trip report of what turned out to be our 'special' family holiday to Orlando. As some will know this was a trip of three related families in one villa, but with the all-important 3 separate cars.

    The Cast

    The Colchester Family, Orlando Virgins, healthy living, 'cool', not so sure they have booked the right holiday. Think all internet forum users are nerds, but been secretly reading ATD and happy to have used tips so picked up.

    DB 48 (Masters Degree in sarcasm)
    DSis-in-law 40ish (likes to eat and live healthily)
    DNeice 12 (getting cooler by the hour)
    DNephew 15 (far too cool for fun)

    The SK Family

    DSis, SKitten of ATD fame, a young 50 this week and veteran of many a US visit.
    SK's (ex)Step-Son 25, last visited 6 years back as part of a SK family holiday

    The Spencem Family, on 3rd visit, would rather run a clapped out car and have house falling apart around them than give up Orlando.

    Me (Spencem) 38, Theme Park Comando, everything else is just wasted ride time.
    AngelMouse 38, goes to Orlando to be a kid again
    DS 13, still a kid and loving every second of it, yet to discover cool.

    Sunday 16th Aug

    The day before had been THE WEDDING and so a late night. While our brother's family went to SK's in Stevenage to crash for a few short hours I used some reward points to book a night in the Stevenage Holiday Inn Express for us 3 to reduce the crowding. We got there around midnight and had to set an alarm for 4 am to be up and showered in time to meet the mini-bus at SK's for the drive down to Gatwick for our 6:30 check-in. We had found the day before that Delta's web site cannot cope with online check-in to the US for non-US citizens, having no facility to enter the API data. This was a lot of fun, trying to check in while also trying to get the monkey suit on for my Best Man duties

    The trip down and check-in were uneventful with all of us going through security without too much fuss. I was pleasantly surprised that while yesterday's online check-in failed to complete it did save my request for a seat change to an exit.

    The shopping area at Gatwick North has been re-done and expanded since I was last there in 2007, after failing to find a McDonalds we split up to find some breakfast thinking that with a 9am take off the meal would not be served until later. Us 3 ended up in a coffee shop eating overpriced and underdone breakfast Ciabattas before walking down to the gate.

    Our plane awaiting its passengers


    Delta board by 'zone' roughly equivalent of when you check-in, like EasyJet, for some reason us 3 had been given Zone1 the same as business class while the others were in zone4, so we got to sit in the cramped airline seats that little bit sooner. This apparently is a perk.

    As soon as we took off the crew were round with drinks, followed immediately by lunch. Because I was at the front of economy in my exit seat this meant I got mine about 10:30 and far too soon after breakfast.

    Lunch was chicken or pasta, opinion was divided between revolting or excellent depending on who you asked and their level of 'coolness'.


    I watched the very funny Monsters'v'Aliens before catching up on my missed sleep for most of the flight. I did make a few trips back to see how the others were doing. DS took loads of pictures of not much around the plane and out of the window as he is mad about flying and commercial flying in particular. I'll spare you most of them, except this flattering one of his aunt.


    The service on the flight was very good, with a few drinks runs, an ice cream run and a sandwich just before landing. Plus you could go and get a drink, including coffee, any time from the galley.

    We landed a little ahead of time into Atlanta where immigration and customs were very efficient. The immigration area having over 70 desks in total with most manned. DB's family and we cleared with no problem, but then had a worrying few minutes wait while SK cleared. She had been loudly telling everyone who would listen how ill she was feeling and when she didn't appear in the baggage claim area we feared she had fallen foul of the Swine Flu precautions. Not that we wouldn't have gone on without her, just that they might have worked out we were all together and thrown us out as well.

    We had about 2 hours to kill before our connecting flight, so after dropping our luggage back on a belt and re-clearing security we set off to find our gate and see what was around it. Atlanta is divided up into 7 concourses and each one has a food court as well as actual restaurants and shops. Once we had our first taste of America (Checkers burger and proper coffee) there was time for a quick look in the book shop before the 1:15 flight down to MCO.

    Landing off an internal flight is like getting off a bus, so it was a breeze to pick up our luggage and make our way down to Dollar to get the cars. We did all make comment on how hot the air around the aircraft door was as we got off.

    The week before we left I had got the other two to join Dollar Express, so we all bypassed the lengthy queue and presented ourselves as one booking (via CarHire3000) picking up three cars with six drivers. Luckily the agent was very good and soon had it sorted. Off over the road to find that while DB had got his desired Chrysler300 and SK was happy with her PT Cruiser I had been given a Tardis disguised as a Jeep Commander. It must have been a Tardis since it clearly was from 1972, not only did it have wind up windows all round, but it also had no form of central locking at all and mirrors you adjust by winding down the window and pushing. It also turned out to do about 10 miles to the gallon, if this is Jeep's idea of a new car then it is no wonder they are going under. To say we were less than impressed would be an understatement, I even went back to complain the door locks didn't work, not thinking for a moment that it is possible to buy a new car in the US without central locking. I was told that is what we give as an intermediate, if you don't like it pay for an upgrade. While I am now a Dollar Express member they have had their last booking from me, back to Alamo next time where I'll be able to pick my own car from within a grade.

    The offending Tardis nearest the camera.


    The drive down to the villa was fine, even with 3 cars in convoy. we had rented our brothers choice of a luxury villa on Grand Reserve at the end of Old Lake Wilson Road. On first inspection it certainly lived up to its luxury tag with loads of space and great pool area and furniture. We had two master suites both with huge walk-in showers another 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and a games room. The extra bathrooms were a great boon when trying to get our early.

    After dropping luggage and a quick look round most of us went to the new Publix for supplies and tea (fried chicken, bread, salads). This trip included the worlds longest ham and cheese tasting session from SK and Sis-in-law at the deli counter.

    Once fed we went in the pool for a quick dip and then to bed, where the fun started. We had been in bed a short while when there was a very loud short high pitched bleep or 3. Being sound asleep we could not work out where it came from and so dozed back off, only to be awakened a while later by the same. This happened a couple of times before I snapped awake to see a red light on the smoke detector, thinking this was the problem I got one of the high bar stools and pulled it off the ceiling. by now it was 02:30 and we were soon back asleep. 03:15 another set of bleeps. This time I worked out it must be the pool alarm on our patio doors, so that came off the wall to reveal a battery inside and a wire running to a transformer screwed into a plug socket, neither stayed in place long and a blissful nights sleep followed.

    Day 2 is here
    Last edited by spencem; 22-09-2019 at 11:50 PM. Reason: Typo
    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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    :o one feels things could only get better

  3. #3
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    Hmmmmm sounds like a fun first day ;)

    The villa looks lovely, shame I can't say the same about the 'tardis'



  4. #4
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    Shame about the car, but at least the flights and connection went OK Looking forward to hearing about your (commando style) assault on the parks ;)

  5. #5
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    DB, Me being ill was nothing to do with me being delayed in immigration.
    They changed officers and it took just forever :eek:

    And as for the tasting session on the deli counter, we didn't hear any compliants about our choices

    A special message for my DN who is soon to be an
    You have a birthday coming up, I might have just forgiven you by then

  6. #6
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    Great start to the trip report spencem and not a bad start to the hols. One of the reasons we choose Alamo is so we can choose the car. And that is a strange looking vehicle.

    They are nice villas at Grand Reserve, we had a drive around that area last year, and the opening of the Publix (and the other shops) has made that are very tourist friendly.
    91/92/95HI MGE;97NYC/Cali/Ariz/Chicago;98St.Petes Bch/Hyatt K'mee;00C'water Bch/Dixie Landings;02South'n Dunes;05Ft.Myers/Keys/Ft Lauderdale/BW LBV;06Indian Ridge;07Ind. Ridge;08Sanibel/Ind. Ridge;09Sarasota/Ind. Ridge;10Sanibel/Ind. Ridge;11Ind. Ridge;12Sanibel/West Haven;13West Haven;14Sanibel/West Haven;15Sanibel/West Haven;15West Haven;16Panhandle tour/Ashley Manor;16Loma Linda;17Sanibel/Loma Vista;18Gulf Coast/St Ag/West Haven;19Sanibel/Venice Beach/West Haven

  7. #7
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    So it's all gone smoothly to this point, hey?

    Sorry, but that car is clearly not of American making. I'm certain it must be from Mexico, or perhaps the island of Ponipay. Never, in my 29 years, have I ever seen something like that on the roads in the United States. The roll-down windows prove it. (But seriously, there is no way you have to pay extra for electric locks and windows, even on an economy car, let alone an intermediate. We had some ratty car hire monkey try to pull that on us once, too. I believe their wounds have healed by now.)

    You have our pity as regards the beeping (or should that be 'bleeping') smoke detectors. We have a smoke detector in Florida that's placed a good 6 feet from the upstairs balcony, and it beeped for months before we found a way to reach it and pull that stinking battery out.












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

  8. #8
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    Great report!
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  9. #9

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    Great report- keep it coming!

  10. #10
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    Great report spencem, shame about the car. I have heard that due to the recession in busy times car hire companies are running out of vehicles and/or not updating the ones they have.
    We always used Dollar (and have a dollar express card) but this time rented through Car Hire 3000 and got an Alamo one. Quite good to pick your car!

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