Or the most ambitious journey we've attempted before. Our usual plan is to stay near our airport of departure, which we did do this time, fly and then head for either Disney or a nearby hotel for one night. Either is a very short drive. And, usually we fly at 10.30 which means getting up fairly early but lands us in Orlando nice and early. The result of all this is that we get to our hotel by about 9pm GMT.
This time our flight wasn't until 1pm so we didn't even land until 10pm and then had to drive 93 miles down unfamiliar roads, in the dark. Oh yes, just a tad ambitious but we're always up for a challenge.
The theory was that we'd get a lie in. Not having to be up at the crack of sparrow-fart to be at the airport for the earlier flight meant that we could sleep in till about seven, which would help a great deal. Unfortunately this did not happen. In the room above us was a baby elephant with an early flight who found it necessary to do their ballet excercises at 3am before showering and then doing some bends and stretches for an hour or so. By the time they'd left their room, other people around us had started moving around more considerately but as we were wide awake by then it was too late for us to get any more sleep. Who knew elephants could do ballet, eh?
So, once we were up, we had a lovely breakfast, were taken to Gatwick and whizzed through security faster than a speeding bullet. Seriously. I have never gone through so fast before in my life. We were just in the right place at the right time – they opened upstairs and started ushering people through just as we got there and in minutes we were in the departure lounge. It was so quiet that we didn't have to fight for one of the comfy seats either.
We had to sit there for ages mind as we hadn't anticipated getting through so quickly but I had books and Stephen went and shopped for car magazines so that was fine. Then the board came up with our gate so we ambled down there. For once we weren't at the furthest end. Good job we're not superstitious either. We were flying on Friday the 13th from gate 13. Bostin'! We didn't have to queue at the gate or fight for a seat, the reason being our flight was only half full. Our plane was English Rose and we had our favourite seats, right at the back – the two seats behind the last set of three.
The flight was bumpy but neither of us is bothered by flying so we were fine. No-one round us seemed upset by the turbulence, which was intermittent. That is to say it appeared with the drinks service. There's nothing quite like trying to not spill a cup of coffee when the plane is intent on throwing it across the far side of the cabin. We were actually giggling away and treating it like one of the Disney rides. Must have been the sleep deprivation.
Due to the plane being half empty we were off there much faster than usual. The downside to being at the back of the plane is that you're normally last off. This time that wasn't a problem. We were through immigration in about five minutes, the luggage was waiting for us and we were off. We took our luggage on the monorail rather than do the double drop malarky and thanks to the tip on The Dibb we bypassed the queue at the Budget desk and walked straight out to the garage as I'd done pre-reg online. Fantastic! We'd never gone though MCO that fast. Never!
Budget were great. No horror stories there. We got our free upgrade and I'm sure it's more of an upgrade than I was expecting. Stephen is very happy with it. It's a Nissan Altima 2.5l with 1400 on the clock. For the non car geeks amongst us, it's a pretty white car with two doors and a small boot. Oh, sorry I mean trunk. The locals seem impressed with it. We pulled in at a gas station to pick up some coffee and two different people stopped Stephen and asked how he liked his car as they didn't know it was available yet and they'd been thinking of getting one. How bizarre.
Funniest thing I've seen in ages – Stephen sitting in the car, with the car key in his hand and a puzzled look on his face. "Where do I put the key to start the car?" Me, "Try just pushing the big round button that says 'stop start' on it" Stephen "Oh yes" Technology. It's getting a bit much for him at his age…
We opted to use the E-pass system that Budget use so we can drive straight through all the tolls without having to stop and pay. It'll cost us an extra $30 over the three weeks but we know we won't accidentally incur any fines if we miss a toll booth, it'll save time, and we won't have to keep ferretting about for change. With the amount of driving we'll be doing it'll be worth it especially last night in the dark.
The drive to Vero Beach went like a dream. I had a set of directions printed out from Google maps and Stephen also had his Tomtom on, and we went straight to it. I'd done online check-in so we just had to pick up our welcome pack and keys and be directed to the underground parking garage. That was great as we were able to park next to the lift where there was a trolley waiting for our luggage.
The room at Vero Beach is of course lovely. It is Disney, after all. We have a fourth floor room and last night we couldn't see the ocean, it being pitch black outside, but we could hear it. It is an Ocean view room though, so we did expect to see the ocean in the morning when it wasn't quite so dark. We could see the pool all lit up beneath our balcony though. Very nice it was too.
There was a turkey on our bed – Stephen insists it was a turtle so I'm going to insist he gets his eyes checked when we get home.
And our room, as I've said is lovely. This is the bit with the beds, the table and the balcony. The bit with the bathroom, vanity area, hallway, and mini kitchen is lovely also but I was too tired to take photos last night and it now looks not quite so pristine.
So, an ambitious journey but everything fell into place, partly because it's a quiet time of year and partly because of my obsessive planning.