Friday February 27th
Finally the day arrived – the start of our month long “adventure” to Florida. Even though we decided to do this trip several months ago, if not years, I wasn’t sure it was ever really going to happen. The exchange rate plummeting was not the most helpful of factors. Added to this general credit crunch uncertainty and the fact that we came “oh so close” to moving house just days before we were due to fly and I think we could be forgiven for being less organised than usual and perhaps slightly more stressed!
Things went pretty smoothly on the way out. The taxi arrived at a not particularly unsociable 7:30am and we were able to move through to Departures at Gatwick’s North Terminal by around 10am. This is something of a luxury for those of us that normally travel standby I must say. Still probably not quite as much shopping time as I might like but at least we weren’t standing at the back of an endless queue for baggage searches with only 5 mins before the flight closed. (Those of you that know me well will understand that this is not a situation that would ever in any way appeal).
BA describes a staff “J Priority” ticket – something you can only book once a year and then only after 10 years of service – as a free club class ticket. Or so Frazer tells me. In fact what it means is that you may get a confirmed seat if you are lucky (rather than doing the standby thing as I mentioned above). Unfortunately as the holiday year runs from April to March it seems that the majority of staff leave it until the end of this period to use up this perk. No business class for me then. Frazer finds this amusing as I have now flown with him a number of times (when he has been working) in either first or club class and yet whenever we go anywhere on holiday together we either end up sitting separately or having to try to persuade other economy travellers to move seats so that we can sit as a family. (Not that hard to be honest when the choice is to sit next to one of our children unaccompanied). Frazer has still yet to travel in either Club or First Class. This time round we were lucky enough to be upgraded to World Traveller Plus, BA’s premium economy cabin, and had four seats in a row, so nothing at all to complain about (yes I have been spoilt).
As daughters of an airline steward both of our girls are pretty blasé about flying long haul and historically we have always been complimented on their behaviour. Despite this being a 9 hour flight they were true to form and we hardly heard a peep out of them even though neither of them chose to sleep. Keira did watch the same film (“Open Season 2”) three times it must be said. (I tried to do much the same as each time the one I was attempting to watch came to a critical plot moment one of the girls would interrupt). As we were coming in to land I was excitedly pointing out the fact as the various babies the length of the plane started screaming but the most excitement I could elicit from the girls was “Mum that’s great but please can you read “Sleeping Beauty”?
All good so far then. What we hadn’t factored in was the fact that not having slept at all on the plane it now felt like around 9:30pm to Keira and Megan and we had only brought one buggy with us. All our parental smugness dissipated as they both turned from delightful dancing ballerinas being coo-ed over by all around in the queue to enter the USA to screaming banshees when we picked up the luggage (including buggy) and both felt it was their right to ride rather than walk. All the usual bribes and plenty more were uttered with no success but eventually a combination of hula hoops and some fellow passengers (boys aged 5 and 3 and a half) doing a little dance for us with a Mickey Mouse balloon seemed to work.
We had thought we’d done a great deal on car hire (online) before we left but as I sat with the girls watching Frazer talk this through with the agent at Orlando airport it became clear this was not the case. The giveaway was watching the agent literally fall about laughing when Frazer pointed out his family sitting amongst two trolleys full of luggage (buggy, five suitcases/bags, five pieces of hand luggage and two car seats). Now I’m the first to admit that I’m not exactly a car person, especially not big cars. So I wasn’t over the moon when I found out that we needed something akin to a tank just to get down the road. Unlike Malaga (horrible rental car experiences many a time) once we’d agreed to the upgrade and parted with the first of many dollars we were told to just choose any car parked within our allotted category. Frazer went for a silver-grey beast of a thing which the girls immediately fell in love with. Something tells me that this could become a pattern for this trip. Already Keira is referring to our home in Windsor as “the little white house”…
The rest was plain sailing and we arrived shattered but happy at our first night’s motel by around 6pm US time. Pizza Hut takeway for the grown ups and straight to bed for the children – judging by our waist lines that should perhaps have been the other way round.