Is it though? Really? Is the journey the best part of a trip to Disneyworld? For the most part I guess we all know the answer to that. Of course it isn’t. However, it is a massive part of any visit to the world’s vacation kingdom. Well, maybe not so much if you live in Central Florida.
So I thought I would take a look today at the relatively epic journey we take to get to the World. It normally starts with an early morning drive to Manchester. This is often done through the dark and misty hills that line the center of England. Something about getting up early to begin a holiday tends to fill me with excitement, in much the same way it did when I was a little kid and my mum and dad used to drag me and my brother out of bed before sunrise to drive down to Devon or some other south coast place. And that was before the cars were decent so the drive would take most of the day. I feel sorry for mum and dad now, looking back on those trips, all those hours with two annoying, loud boys in the back? Well..
Between us we have a big problem with being late, so our arrival at the airport is normally a little while before the Virgin staff even arrive at their posts, rubbing their bloodshot eyes. Fine by us though, it leaves a little time for second breakfast, just a little snack of some kind. Then we are able to check in and move on through to the departure lounge to watch the sunrise.
Manchester airport duty free is not bad. To be honest I’ve flown from quite a few airports and they tend to be much of a muchness. I tend to question the point of looking at the duty free stuff though. When you’re setting off for two weeks abroad, why would you want to start it by carrying a couple of bottles of whisky and a million cigarettes? Buy it on the way home for crying out loud.
So time passes, as it tends to do. You find yourself being bored for what feel like about ten minutes, then suddenly it’s time to board. As usual the announcement goes out. “Would those passengers in rows 65 to 55 pleas board.” With us being British, our nature is to join any que we can find. So within moments the organisation is completely shot as almost every passenger (Except for mister Smith, but we can talk about him shortly.) is standing waiting to get on the plane. But you decide, no, I’m going to play by the rules. That, of course, is the flipside of being British. We do like to follow instructions. So the que situation unfolding before us causes quite the quandary. Well, they said only those rows, but that looks like way more people. If they’re getting in line, then so am I! You eventually decide, after, an epic internal struggle, that you should join the line, at the exact moment your row is called. Ok, lets do it. Down the tunnel and onto the plane. Where you will spend the next 9 hours of your life. Hold on, what was the hurry? Mister Smith may be onto something.
Everyone gets comfortable. Someone almost always finds a way to get their TV working, while someone else inevitably breaks theirs. I find that I can’t put my headphones on yet anyway, because I need to keep my noise cancelling earplugs in. My ears don’t like the pressure. I then wonder why in the world I didn’t bring some decent headphones of my own. Curses. Next time, then. Now we enter into the waiting game. The cabin crew go through their checks but wait, there is a passenger missing. Yes, it’s the erstwhile Mister Smith. You know the one, every flight has one. You hear the name paged several times before the gate closes. Here he comes. And does he look sheepish? No! For Shame.
Lets imagine the next nine hours go quickly. The plastic food (UK airlines like UK restaurants, still have yet to grasp the nut allergy problem properly.) the tiny screen, the dropped back seats. When I sit in a chair at home, I don’t immediately recline it every single time. But the person in front, they seem to feel the need to recline from take off to landing. Oh, thank you so much. The new in flight entertainment systems are pretty amazing, and now there are a ton of movies and TV shows to keep you entertained, not to mention the music selection. Would you believe they even have a little Metallica? Cool.
Ok, so you spent the last hour watching the coast slip by and now you can start to make out features as you descend. Personally this bit freaks me out, so I like to watch the land to forget that I’m in a flying caravan. The Pilot pulls off the impossible, landing without a thud. Ahh Orlando International. The drive back to the terminal from the runway seems to take an hour!
The fasten seat belt light goes out and a thousand clicks signal there may be a race to get off, as everyone stands up and gets their carry on ready. Forgetting that First class, Premium and Premium economy go first. Ok, now it’s time to go. Luckily we are Brits so everyone politely lets each other out of their row. Up the tunnel, then there is a marathon to walk down the corridor with posters for Disney and Universal. This doesn’t help matters as by now you’re almost running. Then you spill out into the immigration hall and the most almighty of ques.
I shall skip the next part for fear of being in trouble with the DHS and all that, and move on to the monorail. You have your bags, but because the airport is so stupidly massive, they need a monorail to get you to the main building. It’s crowded, of course. Lots of just landed flights and everyone has their luggage. It brings you to the terminal, and this is always a magic moment for me. Finally, I’m in Orlando. If it’s near enough to Christmas there will be a massive tree in the area that counts as the Hilton lobby. In general, its pretty cool. But we move on by.
Down the escalator and to the floor where the car rental places are. We line up and wait our turn before politely declining all offers to upgrade in some way. Come now, we did our research. Do we look like amateurs?
Right, paperwork in hand we finally leave the terminal. The sun is still up and we are hit by a wave of heat. Oof its hot! But now the adrenaline is starting to flow freely and all those hours of being awake (Who ever sleeps properly the night before their Disney trip anyway?) wash away. So the car rental guy tells you any car from this row. You feel like you should be taking something much smaller, but you take one anyway. Picking the one you like the best. And you should, it’s your car for the next two weeks.
Now we set Sat Nav to US maps and away we go. It takes longer to get used to driving an automatic than it does being on the wrong side of the road. Since most of the traffic is now tourists everyone seems nice and considerate. We make our way to I4 and then on through main gate. I would be lying if I said it didn’t give me goosebumps, even now.
You navigate the Disney road system easily and then park up and check in. Now you get another flow of adrenaline, as everything is suddenly real. A quick visit to the room to drop everything off, then out for a quick bite, but you’re too tired to even taste the amazing food you’re putting in your mouth. Ok, time for bed.
One thing is for sure, you go to sleep smiling, ready for what the next two weeks will bring!
I hope you enjoyed reading this. I have a question now, for you – the reader! Just a curiosity is all. Anyone who is American and drives down to WDW from wherever, can you tell me how far away the signs start for Disney? I have driven to Jacksonville a few times and never really noticed on the way back to property how soon the signs begin. So do you see signs from as far away as Georgia, or is it just when you close those last few miles of I4? Thanks.