Since my daily diary of what happened in Florida, is covered in my Monday Round-up posts, I wanted to recap my holiday in a slightly different way. Instead of doing Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, etc. I wanted to approach the holiday by location or event. As someone who had never been to Florida (or Disney World before), there was a lot to learn and hopefully a lot I can pass on to other people in the same situation. If it wasn’t for my friend Amy’s knowledge beforehand, the guide books and even the internet, I’m sure it would have been a very steep learning curve when I got there.
In my first post about the holiday, I want to talk about the flights. A journey from London to Orlando, takes approximately 9 hours, on a non-stop flight. However direct flights are also the most expensive and so if you’re trying to budget, the likelihood is that you’ll maybe have a one-stop flight. This usually still includes one long flight (just not quite as long) and then a shorter one too. On our journey out to Orlando, we flew from London to Montreal (Canada), taking 7 hours and then from Montreal to Orlando – a further 3 and a half hours. However on the way back we flew from Orlando to Washington (Virginia) which took 2 hours and then Washington to London – which took a further 7 and a half hours. No matter which way you look at it, its a long haul and honestly it can be a bit daunting. That said, picking good flight times can make a big difference – as can entertaining the kids.
I was massively over prepared for our flights. The girls each own an iPad anyway, so making sure they were charged up was an absolutely priority. In the run up to our holiday, we also looked at back up charging systems, knowing it would be hard to re-charge the iPads if they died. The girls took crayons, notepads, activity books, card games and magazines. I had my iPad also, as well as my book. HOWEVER, we barely needed any of it.
On the way out, our flight was 1pm our time, getting in at 2.30am our time (8.30pm local). I was dreading killing so much time, especially into the night, but I needn’t have worried. The girls watched a movie, then we got served dinner, then the girls watched another movie, then another, and then it was pretty much time to swap planes. The only problem we came across was Megan not feeling very well (and I worried it was a plane sickness) but of course that’s not something everyone will have to deal with. By the time we’d switched planes, had a quick break on the ground, boarding the next didn’t seem as worrying, since this was the short one coming up. It was still a further 3 and a half hours but both girls were tired and so they slept for majority of the time. Admittedly I had to make sure that both of them had a way to sleep – against me, on my lap, against the window etc. – but it certainly killed time on the second plane, as well as more movies, a drink and snack etc.
By the time we got off the second plane, the girls were tired (as would be expected at 2.30am on their body clocks) but having managed to nap they were doing okay. If we had been able to just drive off to the villa at that point, it would have been the perfect arrival. However the queue for the hire car was horrendous and that meant an hour long wait while mum sorted out the car. For anyone traveling into Orlando International Airport, be warned of booking through Budget Car Hire. I’m sure they are the cheapest – their queue was huge. However the service was incredibly slow and everyone and their uncle seemed to book with them, meaning you will wait ages for your car. Booking through Hertz, Alamo, National, Avis or Enterprise may well be a bit more expensive but you will be so glad when you can drive straight off, rather than have to wait!
On our flights home, we left Orlando at 7pm (though the flight was technically delayed). This meant that the girls were already getting towards tired and weren’t too interested in doing anything than watch a movie. Sadly the short plane – from Orlando to Washington – required you to pay for the TV services, so instead the kids resorted to their iPads (reluctantly). This was the first time they’d used the iPads on the flights and so worrying about portable chargers had been pointless. More ironically, the plane seats we were sitting at, actually had plug sockets under the seat so we could have charged up anyway. Without the TV option, the first (though short) flight, did seem to drag. The girls really could have done with movies or tv to mong out to, especially given the time of day. However this was to do with our Airline – which was United Airlines, leaving us feel they weren’t as good as Air Canada – who we’d flown out with.
The first plane was delayed, as I mentioned before, but luckily the second plane was also delayed otherwise we would have missed it. Because of that we had no real layover period and instead just rushed to the next plane. Even once onboard, the plane was delayed again, but this couldn’t be help and we all just settled in and got comfy. Local time was around 10-11pm at this point and the girls were tired. However knowing they were getting dinner on the plane meant there was no point encouraging them to sleep. Instead they both watched a movie until the plane finally departed and then dinner was served not long after. As soon as food was done, I encouraged both girls to sleep. By this time it was about midnight and I knew they weren’t going to get a full night’s sleep as it was. Again, as with the outbound flight, both girls needed an ability to sleep – laying on my lap, against the window etc. – and this at least meant they got a few hours. (Both planes provided pillows so this was good). Sadly for me I didn’t get much, largely because I was making sure they did. However it was more important to me that they managed to sleep, so I didn’t worry too much. With about an hour and a half of the flight left, both girls woke up. This was probably the hardest part of the journey because they both still wanted to sleep but they weren’t tired enough that they could sleep through the noise or sunlight outside. I probably should have encouraged them to watch another movie or something as the last hour and a bit really dragged.
It’s absolutely natural to want to be prepared (and panic a little) but try not to over prepare. We all had flight bags and we all had plenty of stuff to occupy us. However most long haul flights have built in screens for tv and movies and actually this is one of the best ways to occupy both adults and children. Headphones is a must though. Airlines usually give out free ones but they’re normally pretty crap. On the way out ours were earbuds (which the kids don’t like) and crackled like hell. On the way out they were headphones but the quality was just so poor. Take plenty to drink (buy it in the airport if you have to), sweets to suck for take-off (or just distract the kids with) and probably a back up source of entertainment if they kids get bored of the movies or if the plane wants to charge you. However ultimately I would say don’t worry about it too much. Yes it seems like a long time to be trapped in a small space for, but actually because it’s something new and different, most kids will probably take to it just fine. With plenty of choice in movies and TV, you shouldn’t have too much trouble occupying them or yourself.