We set off around 6.30am for Gatwick North. Our flight was at 12.35pm, we left extra early due to it being mid week, rush hour and having to get over the QE2 bridge. I would rather be there extra early and relax then be there late and running to the gate. We booked the Gatwick Aspire Lounge, I can be a bit of a flapper at airports and would rather hide away in a lounge away from the hustle and bustle. The lounge is around £17 each however food and drink is included. The food available was bacon sandwiches, pastries, cereal, fruit, cheese. The drinks available are endless from fruit juice, tea and coffee to beer wine and spirits. Around 11am they changed from breakfast to lunch which was soup cheese & crackers, olives, breads etc. There is also free Wi-Fi in the lounge and plugs to charge appliances. I might have downloaded a few things on the iPad to watch on the plane and made sure both iPad and phone were charged 100% before leaving. We stayed in the lounge until our gate appeared on the board.
We didn’t have to walk too far to the boarding gate which makes a change as normally it’s a marathon before you reach the plane. We had booked extra leg room on the plane and I had pre-booked seats 10A and 10B which is the first row of economy. We flew on the new Dreamliner – oo la la, the seats were lovely, we had loads of leg room and we were lucky enough to have a row of three to the two of us.
We took off 25 minutes late. Around 45 minutes into the flight drinks were offered (at a cost of course although I hear drinks will be included from November with Thomson) we didn’t buy any drinks as we bought some at the airport so can’t comment on prices. Around 2 hours into the flight we had a meal which was chicken pasta bake and tasted quite nice as far as plane food goes. There was also a chocolate caramel mousse, bread roll, cheese, crackers and water. Tea and coffee was then offered round. Around 4 hours into the flight we were offered a miniature chocolate bar which was Bounty or Mars. Around 2 hours before landing you get a roll and scone with clotted cream I opted not to have it but it looked ok.
Anyway after watching three episodes of Keeping up with the Kardashians, Bad Neighbours, The Lucky One and an episode of Don’t Tell The Bride we arrived at Sanford International.
Once off the plane we went through to passport control and handed in the customs form we filled out on the plane and our passport, this took around 30 minutes to get through. Then through to baggage reclaim which took a while but I think it was due to the baggage carousels not being that big so luggage was slow coming out always a horrible moment when you don’t see your case going round. We then needed our passport and customs form again, this time our customs form was taken away and our passports were checked again. Then we were finally through all the checks and out of the airport the heat hit you but woohoo we were in Florida.
When we came out of the airport and crossed the road straight in front of us, the Thomson rep was there to greet us. The Thomson rep told us to just go round the corner to the Thomson room on the right (you couldn’t miss it the logo is huge) we went into the room and they give you all your check in details where to go to get your transfer/car etc. After this we then followed the signs for Alamo to collect our car.
We queued for around 40 minutes to get our car. There was no hard sale or pressure to upgrade (this may be down to the fact we had already booked an intermediate SUV for the two of us) but I’m sure a simply no would be accepted the staff were all very helpful. We were given a Dodge Journey in black which was a lovely car and definitely big enough for the two of us. We had a quick check round the car for scratches that we didn’t want to be responsible for when we returned the car – all clear. We opted not to have a Garmin (American version of TomTom) as we were both on three network we could use our phones and data at no extra cost in the US, so we used Google maps and just took our in car charger and phone holder which worked perfectly and saved us around $100.
We set off for our hotel (around 40 minute drive) in daylight and the sun soon went down quickly, we then couldn’t find how to turn the car lights on which was a bit of a nightmare. We then had to drive along with no lights on until I had found on Google where they were. We can laugh about it now but at the time there was a bit of a panic.
We reached the Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at Seaworld quick enough. Check in was easy there was no queue. We received our complimentary cookie (chocolate chip mmm) and off we went to find our room. We were in block 11 room 70 in the outside blocks which were like motel style accommodation. The room was large with 2 double beds , an armchair, mini kitchen (sink, fridge and microwave) perfect for what we needed. Air conditioning was loud but we were very grateful for it as it was so humid.
We then took a trip to Walmart along Turkeylake Road (around 3 miles away) which was a 10 minute drive with lights on this time :-). We did some shopping and took a trip to McDonald’s on the way out of Walmart which was $15 for two meals, as it was now 3am UK time we were not fussed what food we had as long as it was quick as we were hungry. We took this back to the room, unpacked and the crashed around 11pm, which was 4am in the UK so we had nearly been up 24 hours yawn!