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Florida -2003


A family holiday to Florida was our first trip of 2003. After much discussion all the immediate family decided they wanted to be involved - 6 adults, 2 children and 1 infant. This is when the fun began! We decided that a package in a four bedroom house with a private pool would be ideal. After trying a couple of companies, the accommodation posed no problems but seating on the same aircraft became a problem, despite being somewhat flexible on dates. None of the major tour companies were particularly helpful; Virgin Atlantic could not provide the number of seats and BA were struggling.

Almost out of the blue we received a call from BA holidays, who had obviously noted our enquiry. They had received a four seat cancellation, tentatively reserved the seats for us and offered a very nice house in a great location at an extremely good price. The service from BA Holidays was excellent, as indeed were the flights and accommodation. The family break was on!

Magic Kingdom 2003

Arrival and Immigration at Orlando was a nightmare! Two very tired children, one over tired infant and six adults, being subjected to repetitive personal, hand luggage and hold baggage checks by unfriendly, unhelpful, poorly trained immigration staff was not the ideal way to start a vacation. Following the events of 9/11 security was tightened all over the USA. My personal experience in recent times had been business trips to NYC (JFK) and Boston (Logan). Neither of these airports could compare with the unpleasant two hours or so, enduring the "process", at Orlando. Eventually we were through immigration and off to collect the pre-booked hire cars.

Why, oh why Alamo? The very name should have set alarm bells ringing! Our sons and I joined the long line to collect the cars. Unfortunately these had been pre-paid. Believe it or not this actually took longer than getting through immigration. Initially only one of our two pre-booked cars was available, no pre-booked child seat was available and no alternative vehicle was offered - except a massive MPV at an exorbitant upgrade price. Finally a manager got involved (no commission here for the original clerk then?), two identical models of the pre-booked car suddenly became available and a child seat! Over four and a half hours after landing, we were on our way, in the early evening, to collect our house keys from the local agent.

Arriving at the agency, just outside of Kissimmee, we were faced with an office that had already closed for the day! Good character-building stuff, this! Fortunately we had a contact telephone number and about an hour later the keys were brought to us, unfortunately with no documentation or information. So, some six hours or so after arrival in Florida, we were off to our house.

At last, a pleasant surprise. We were taken to a lovely house, well maintained, decorated and furnished, with a very nice private pool beside a lake. It was delightful and in a quiet location. After being given a tour of the house, our sons offered to go out and find some convenience food so that we could have a snack before bedding down. Yes it was a quiet location and no fast food outlets existed locally. They returned with a selection of hot and cold fast food from a garage, a couple of miles down the road - we would obviously need to scout the area thoroughly the following morning. That night, however, it was more than adequate and we headed for bed! We would look round tomorrow, when we picked up the information from the accommodation agent.

Gatorland, Orlando
No gators in the pool

There's always one in any family

No 'Gators in the pool!

Disneyland, Universal Studios, Sea World, Kennedy Space Centre and various other attractions such as Gatorland, Air Boat rides and the usual stuff occupied us for the next couple of weeks. The children enjoyed themselves immensely and we discovered that our eldest son (well into his 30s) had a love for anything Disney from his childhood (It's a small world - and especially Brer Bear!)

Food was a bit of a problem.
The inordinate number and variety of pancake, waffle and fast food outlets pleased the children enormously but, to be honest, the lack of good restaurants became a bit of a strain (as did my trouser waistband) and I found myself craving for a civilised meal. Still, this holiday wasn't for us, it was for the youngsters and they didn't complain. I think all grandparents should take their grandchildren to Orlando - but only once!

Our days were full, we tended to eat out most of the time and the 2 weeks seemed to fly past - we weren't looking forward to Orlando airport security on the way home and they didn't disappoint, although it was, perhaps, a less painful experience than entering the US. This surprised me slightly as I would have thought they would be more thorough dealing with passengers embarking on aircraft rather than disembarking.

A hectic trip, we would need a holiday to recover from this one.

The return BA flights were excellent with the cabin crew being very attentive of the children - thank you BA.

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