Make your own free website on Tripod.com

My Holiday in Florida

 

Checking in At Newcastle

This was relatively straight forward, as we arrived in plenty of time. We booked in our luggage, got our boarding cards in about 20 minutes. We then had a look around the airport, had something to eat, waiting until it was time to go to the departure lounge.

 

Boarding the Aeroplane

We were flying with Brittania - a well known British company. I had flown with these before, but never in the last 4 years or so. The aircraft was a new Boeing 767-300, and looked quite big from the outside. Inside, however, it was very crammed - very very crammed. After about half an hour, we took off for Sanford International Airport, but we would re-fuel at Bangor Airport in Maine for an hour or so. We didn't know if we would have to get out of the plane while it was being re-fuelled.

The journey wasn't bad, but a little uncomfortable. They provided us with Duty Free and a meal, which was pretty much what you expect. They also put on this movie, which was a complete waste of time. I don't know about anyone else, but it didn't appeal to me. After 8 hours, most people got up and had a walk around the aircraft when we stopped at Bangor.

 

At Bangor

We had to re-fuel here as the aircraft couldn't cope with the distance, plus a full capacity and full cargo. The travel agent said it would take an hour, but at the time, the Captain wanted it to be re-fuelled as soon as possible, and it only took 20 minutes, we never had to leave the aircraft. I noticed they were using Mobil fuel, I thought about asking if they would swipe my Premier Points card at the time, but thought I'd better not. I could have got quite a few on there too !

The air stewardesses opened the rear doors while the aeroplane was being filled, and I wandered to the back, to get a bit of fresh air. My first sight of America and........ it was raining. It looked very like England, until I looked a bit closer and noticed the traffic driving on the right. I was getting a bit nervous at this point, as I'd always wanted to visit America and this was the moment.

 

From Bangor to Sanford

We had another 3 hours to go until we reached Sanford in Florida. The journey seemed to go pretty quick. They served us with more drinks and a hot dog - which got us in the "American mood". Did we need it? Well I never.

 

At Sanford International

When we landed at Sanford, the aeroplane turned around and took us to the terminal. We all got off the aeroplane and into the terminal building. We reached customs and after a while getting our green and white cards filled in and checked, and after we collected the luggage, we stepped outside for the first time - woooahhhhh - what a feeling that was. It was red hot, even though it was late at night, and the humidity was real bad at first, but wasn't bad when we were used to it.

 

Getting the car

We had pre-arranged the car hire with our Travel Agent in the UK (Thomas Cook), and when we arrived in the US, we realised we'd be dealing with Dollar. We went to the front desk, explained what we had arranged, and we were put into a queue. 5 minutes later, we were being dealt with by this woman, who tried to get us to upgrade our model, but we refused. We were given a white Lexus Stratus.

 

Driving to Maingate, Orlando

We were staying in the Doubletree Guest Suites in Kissimmee in Orlando, so we had to drive there ourselves. My Dad agreed to drive us there, so we spent a while getting to grips with the car controls, and switching the air conditioning on full power (if only to keep us alive). After a while, we were away.

We had to pass 3 toll booths on the Central Florida Greeneway, and eventually we arrived on Highway 192, which was to be the main road we would be using for most of the holiday.

Doubletree Guest Suites was based here (also known as the Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway) and we found out quite easily. If everything was like this in England we'd be laughing.

 

Booking in At Doubletree

After getting out of the car, we needed to book in to the Suites and get some kip. We arrived at the reception desk, got our keys and found the Guest Suite, which was very nice. My mate and I decided to go for a little walk - our first in the US - and we walked along the road for a while, then turned back. We unpacked a few of the cases and went to sleep.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

 

The First Day in Orlando (Friday)

We woke up at about 9am that morning. I, along with my mate, went to the Supermarket to get a few things, while my parents went to the swimming pool for a few hours. We would take things easy today, the next 2 weeks were gonna be something different.

 

Saturday - Universal Studios

My parents took the free shuttle provided by the Guest Suites to Disneyland, while us two took the car and drove to Universal Studios. We had bought 2 tickets for 7 days for Disneyland and 2 tickets for 7 days as a Florida "Flexticket". The flexticket allowed us to go to Universal Studios, Sea World, Wet 'n' Wild for 7 consecutive days. We arranged it so we could double up on most days and have time to spend away from the parks if we wanted.

We were a bit unsure as to what would happen at the Universal Studios, if they were to take our photo and use it every time we used the tickets, we would be snookered, after all, my parents would be using the tickets for some of the days too. They only asked us to sign the back of the tickets, but they didn't check the signatures at all.

Universal Studios was brilliant. After a while trying to find the car park (read the signs....I never), we paid the $5 parking fee and was told to park in the massive multi-storey car park located near the studios.

It is a fair walk from the car park to the actual entrance to the Studios, but there are walkways you can use (flat escalators).

Picture 1

Picture 2

 

Sunday - Epcot Centre (Disneyland)

My parents took the car to Universal Studios, while we took the free shuttle to Disneyland. We had planned to take as long as needed to visit Epcot, MGM and Magic Kingdom - but only for 7 days. Animal Kingdom was also included, but that didn't appeal to us. So, Sunday was planned as Epcot - and we had a great time. Here I sent a free email to work telling them I was missing them (?). I thought I would be away from computers for a while! I also got my caricature done by this French guy.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 5

Picture 6

Picture 7

 

Monday - Universal Studios

Monday was planned as a trip back to Universal Studios for us two, while my parents had a day off.

 

Tuesday - Epcot Centre (Disneyland)

Tuesday we returned to Epcot via the shuttle to visit the rest of the places we hadn't been to when we were there on Sunday. My parents went to Sea World and used the car.

On the evening, we went for a meal for my parent's silver wedding.

 

Wednesday - Day Off

Wednesday was our day off, while my parents visited Wet 'n' Wild with the car. I stayed beside the pool all day and relaxed, it was great.

 

Thursday - Wet 'n' Wild

Wet 'n' Wild wasn't bad - excellent water slides, a good day to relax by the pool, but put plenty of lotion on, or you get burnt.

 

Friday - Sea World

We weren't sure what this would be like. After an hour, and watching a dolphin show, we had enough and drove back to the hotel and did a bit of shopping - my parents had gone to Animal Kingdom at Disney via the free shuttle.

 

Saturday - Magic Kingdom and Epcot

We weren't sure about the Magic Kingdom either. After about 3 hours, we took the monorail within Disneyland and spend a few hours at Epcot for the last time.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

 

Sunday - Daytona Beach

We thought we all needed a break from the parks, so on Sunday we headed off to Daytona Beach, about 80 miles or so away from where we were staying. After a few problems (mother's throwing up.. yer nah what they're like <g>), we arrived safely, and looked at the massive Daytona Speedway, then headed for the beach. It cost us $5 to park on the actual beach, and when we found a spot, we parked the car, got out the stuff and went for a swim in the water - it was magic. It was so bloody warm, and the waves were lashing up on loads of us, I had a great time here - actually the best day I spent in the US up to that day.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

 

Monday - MGM Studios

We spent 7 hours here, it was great. The weather was cooler today, and we made advantage of it and walked around the MGM Studios. We took the shuttle, while my parents stayed at the hotel, had the car and did a bit of shopping.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

 

Tuesday - Kennedy Space Centre

Kennedy Space Centre was magic. I drove all the way there (by this time I was driving everywhere we went) and parked the car at the Visitor's Centre, had a look around the centre, then used the shuttle busses to visit the 3 sites within the Space Centre. This was fantastic, well worth a visit. We opted to see an Imax short film about space explorations, and the one we saw (we had a choice of 3) was about living on the moon in the future and they were running out of water. It's all I'm going to say, but it's well worth a look - it's even in 3D.

Coming out of the Space Centre and into the car, the clouds started to thicken, we could hear thunder and all of a sudden it started to rain, very heavy it was too - but the good thing was it was warm water, so we didn't mind. I drove all the way back when it was raining, and the roads looked quite lethal too, it must have been like driving on glass.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 5

Picture 6

Picture 7

 

Wednesday - Day Off

As this was to be our last full day in the States, we decided to cash in on the remaining days on the Disney ticket and use the cash for something else. There are quite a few places where you can cash in remaining Disney tickets, and we got quite a good deal on ours.

We went shopping, bought a few more presents then on the evening we all went for a meal. We then went back to the suites and had a few beers with our waiter we made friends with. He never asked for our ID cards either.

 

Thursday - Last Day

We would fly to Newcastle on Thursday night at 10:10pm (US time), so we had planned to go to Gatorland on the way to the airport, but when we arrived, we didn't really fancy it, so we spent a few hours at Florida Mall Shopping Centre, had something to eat, then we went to the airport. I'm not sure here, but I think by this time most of us were wanting to come home at this point. I did, a bit, but it seemed a shame to be leaving too.

 

At Sanford Airport

We arrived at the airport and found the Dollar drop-off point. We also took a change of clothes, and got changed into trousers in the toilets at the airport - there was no way I'd walk off the aeroplane at Newcastle wearing shorts. Checking in was easy, and we spent about 5 hours at the airport - bit of a nightmare really.

 

From Sanford to Newcastle

On most US to UK flight paths, it is quicker than going as the pilots can make use of the jetstreams (high winds blowing across the Atlantic) and it only took us about 7 and a half hours to get back, the Captain said it was a record. The seats were very uncomfortable, and they put on another crappy film - same old food (well, not exactly the same). It was good seeing all the same people you saw when you were going.

 

Universal Studios

Twister

Twister involves going into a massive sound studio, and watching a short film starring the two film stars of the movie (Bill Preston and Helen Hunt) showing you how the movie was made - it is really breathtaking. You are then moved into the actual studio where the actual "twister" will take place. I won't spoil it for you, but it was great how they did it. Marks out of 10: 8

 

Back To The Future: The Ride

This was my favourite ride, mainly as BTTF2 is my all time favourite film (to date). It involves going into a surround movie screen and you are lifted into a time machine and take a ride through history trying to stop the evil Biff Tannen - it is brilliant. Marks out of 10: 10

 

Jaws

It took a while to find this ride, it is located away from most of the other rides, and we almost missed it - don't know how though, its big enough! You are taken on a ride on a boat on the search for Jaws - pretty scary stuff ! Small children may be 'scarred for life' - like my mates daughter may have been. Marks out of 10: 7

 

Nickelodeon

This was meant to be aimed for kids - it basically takes on a behind-the-scenes look at how the TV station is put together. You are seated in an audience, and kids and parents are asked up onto the stage and take part in various games, and some get gunged. Not bad, could be irritating for older kids. Marls out of 10: 5

 

Earthquake

Earthquake is one of the better rides at Universal Studios - mainly as it brings you into the thick of the action, which is what I like. You are taken on a brief tour of how the movie "Earthquake" was made, with a guide by Charlton Heston. You are then transported onto an underground train, and taken along into the depths of New York - then suddenly an Earthquake strikes. Excellent to see - and well worth going on more than once if you can. Marks out of 10: 9

 

Disney MGM Studios

For some reason I kept getting this mixed up with Universal Studios. To me, MGM seemed to bring out all of the old and classic films (together with a few of the recent ones) and was more relaxed than Universal.

Tower of Terror

Ever seen the TV show the Twilight Zone? If you do, you'll know strange things can happen in the twilight zone, and this is one of them. You're placed in an elevator on your way to your room in a hotel.....up you go.. up.. up and up....then the lift stops... then your catapulted down 3 flights then brought up and back down again - you're strapped into your seat and it's a fantastic experience - well worth going on more than once if you can. The queues can get big though, but when we went, it was only about 10 minutes or so.

 

Walt Disney World - Epcot

Disney's Epcot Centre has recently been opened, and in my opinion is the best. It mainly involves 2 parts, Epcot itself and the World Showcase. The World Showcase involves countries around the world having their own space in the park - it is fantastic.

It's impossible to see all of Epcot in one day, so plan at least two if you can. If you do have two days, walk at a steady pace (but not too slow) and enjoy what you see.

 

Eating in Kissimmee

Doubletree Guest Suits are located on the West Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway (Highway 192) - and all along this road has loads of eating places, like "Ponderosa", "Wild Bills" and the infamous "Hooters". We never went in there, dammit. Most of these places offer excellent food, plus nearly all offer a free fill-up of soft drinks (Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr Pepper etc.) - so you could, in fact, drink soft drinks all night, and only pay for the first one. Wish we have this in Britain.

It's difficult describing what it's like to eat in America. Some people say the portions are bigger than the UK, and in some cases it's true. I think what really fills you up is the side portions if you are going to a Ponderosa. This is a "eat all you like for $9" or something, and you get your seat, get a plate, then umm, go for it !

Most nights we went to eat out, although one night we hired a video (the new X Files video) and bought a pizza, then ate that at the room. It is cheaper to eat out (plus you can eat more.. if you want) than eat in, although it's nice to have a change.

Supermarkets

For the first few days, we were 'forced' to buy our food at the local supermarket, and quickly found it was very expensive. But then we found a supermarket (about the same size as Buckinghamshire) called Wal-Mart - which sold things about 3 times as cheap as the Supermarket. There are allsorts of things here for sale, and it is very cheap - wish we'd known about it earlier on.

Drinking

As you may know, the legal drinking age in the US is 21, and they are very strict ! Make sure you take some form of ID with you for this reason other than your passport. I took an AA International Drivers License, which included my photo - which seemed OK. I got asked in the UK pub at Epcot and didn't have it on me - so remember to take it !!

We made friends with a barman at the hotel and he never asked us for our ID - what a guy.

I was also asked my ID at the Nike store, as I used my $100 travellers cheque to pay for a pair of jeans - always carry some form of ID on you or it could be a problem, and embarrassing.

 

Shopping

Women will bloody love Florida - there are so many shops to choose from, and they are nearly all cheaper than the UK. In Kissimmee, there was a flea market (loads of little stalls located on one area) - with a gorgeous babe who worked at Olympia Gold, Boy she was H-O-T, and also Nike stores, Reebok stores, among the others. Beware though, you are only allowed to bring back home items worth 145 or less each - mind you, there wasn't any Customs officers to be seen when we passed through at Newcastle. Thank God :o)

 

Driving

Most people would be nervous about driving in the States if you've never driven there before. It's real easy to get used to. Hell, I am only 21 and picked it up better than my Dad.

My Dad drove to the hotel from the airport on the first day, but after that, I drove nearly all the time, I loved it so much. It is so much more relaxing than driving in the UK. You drive on the right, and there are no roundabouts, and all major roads have slip-roads to the right, then you join another, its as easy as that. There are a few roads which allow you to do U-turns on the major roads at times (can't see people doing that on the M25, can you?.. well saying that, you do) - which can be very useful.

OK I admit I did get lost one time, I was on my own and driving East instead of West on Highway 192 and ended up in the middle of no-where. But I managed to find my way eventually, and most people will.

The car we had was a Lexus Stratus, very nice mover and pretty quick. The doors automatically locked when you reached 16mph - a sign of the times I'm afraid :o(

The road-signs are pretty straightforward - plus one which got me laughing. Going West towards Kissimmee, there was a red sign (must have been planted there for UK drivers) that said "wrong way" on the left hand side of the road. I guess you wouldn't have got very far on the road without realising.

Interstate 4 is the best road I have EVER drove on. It runs down Orlando and is magic, takes you more or less anywhere you want - fantastic.