Changes to Virgin Atlantic Seat Allocation

I have been wondering why I couldn’t get the seat map up for our flights which are now less than 90 days away.  Today I have seen the following announcement:

Updated: 07 March 2014
We recently announced that on 1 April we would launch a new system to provide a more reliable process for selecting seats. We need a bit more time to test the new system, so we are delaying the launch until the end of June.

So, from the end of June, Economy customers will be able to select seats at check in but for those customers wanting to assign a seat before this time, the service will be available for a fee. Charges will not apply to Upper Class and Premium Economy customers.

This means that until the end of June, all customers will be able to select their seats free of charge from 60 days before flight departure.

We wanted to tell you about this change of plan as soon as possible and we’ll confirm the exact date of launch by the end of March.

I find it really disappointing that Virgin have gone down this route – I didn’t mind paying a premium to fly with them as this was part of the overall package that you received which made it feel so much better than the charter flights which competitors offered out of Manchester.  It is another factor that we will have to take into account now for the overall cost of the flight.

What a disappointment.


Further update – it has now been published that the charge will be £25 per person – a substantial addition particularly for families to factor in.


You know you’re in Florida when….

You spot Armadillos before you disembark from the plane – just on landing snuffling around

Cars undertake and overtake you on the I4 – be sure to use those mirrors

You can turn right on a red light (unless it says otherwise)

You can watch hot air balloons drifting across your backyard as you eat your breakfast in the sunshine

The skywriters are out “God loves you”

You see/hear an 8-10ft gator growl like a motorboat engine and rear up (perhaps I won’t swim in the Springs after all)

It’s rude to ask for directions to the toilet, you need to call it the restroom

There is a drive through/up for everything including Banks, ATMs, Pharmacies, mailboxes, ice-cream parlours and, of course, burgers!Image


Park Hopper or not to Park Hopper?

You have the option to add a park hopper options to your Disney tickets for a little more cost but less than the cost of another full day ticket.

The advantage is that you can do 2 (or more) parks in a day, good option if you have a limited number of days in Orlando and are desperate to ride certain rides in certain parks, or just want to experience all the different Disney parks.  You only pay for parking once as well – just keep your receipt.

However, we- Jon don’t rate the park hopper option.  This is mainly because it can take you quite a while to get between parks – we tried it again last year, doing half a day in Epcot and then a half day at Epcot as there is a monorail between the two.  We found that we had to get one monorail to the transportation centre and then a 2nd monorail to Magic Kingdom.  It also took a long time to get between the two.  Accessing Magic Kingdom (if you are staying outside the Disney accommodations) is the slowest anyway, as you have to park, get the tram to the transportation centre and then get either the ferryboat or the monorail – so allow an hour to get in after you have ‘entered’ the gates to the car park.  It then also takes a while to get between them and don’t forget every time you re-enter the park you have to queue back up for the bag checks and go back through the entrance stiles – a bit of a mare and on the day we did it another good hour lost!  With the new Fastpass+ system you can only have 3 fast passes per day so once you have used them then you won’t have the option to do it again at the next park.

For us, the best advice is to get to the park for opening, make the most of the Fastpass+ option and have a break in the middle of the day by the pool if you need to – you only pay for parking once, so you could have a chill and lunch by the pool and then head back for the evening with fireworks etc if you wanted to.

Park Hopper or not to Park Hopper?  We say Not!




Places to amble when you need a break from the Parks

My friend is visiting Orlando with her brother’s family in October and asked me for some recommended places to amble on days between Park days – nice places to stroll and have some lunch or tea.

My reply wasImageImage definitely Celebration, The Boardwalk, Downtown Disney – if you want a day that is more lazy but still has things to amuse the children as there are some great restaurants including Rainforest and a T Rex (Dinosaur version of Rainforest).  We do love Bok Tower Gardens – might be a bit boring for kids although Caitlin enjoyed it when we went and the cafe does a simple but delicious lunch/tea.  Also – they might have their ‘Spooky Trail’ on which is worth watching out for.  Other places to consider – Mount Dora – lots of little shops, nice places to eat and if you combine it with sundown magical sunsets, Lake Louisa State Park – you could take a picnic, you might see wildlife – tortoises, deer, armadillos and it costs $6 for the car to go in, Blue Springs State Park – there is a St John’s River Cruise and also if you get a chilly morning head there to see the manatees – take a picnic $6 to get in, Winter Park – lots of restaurants, a scenic boat ride where the rich people live and a great chocolatier!. Finally, not an amble but a good half day trip out – consider Boggy Creek Airboat ride – it is good fun, you will see Alligators and it is an ‘easy’ day which can be combined with a BBQ by the pool to finish the day off.

The New Transformers Ride at Universal Studios Orlando

20140224_114247 20140224_123120We managed to ride the relatively new Transformers 3D ride at Universal Studios this February.  As with all the rides at Universal the build up/queuing areas to the actual ride all form part of the story and your journey into the ride itself.  Universal says “As a N*E*S*T recruit, you’ll find yourself on the front lines of an intergalactic war between the Autobots and Decepticons. You’ll fight alongside Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, trying to keep the Allspark from falling into enemy hands.”

Very similar to The Amazing Adventures of SpiderMan ride in Islands of Adventure, you enter a moving 3-D motion simulator which takes you into battle.  There are loads of special effects and the ride definitely has the wow factor, especially for boys (big and little alike!).

I enjoyed it – would give it 5* although I prefer SpiderMan as I am more familiar with the characters.  A word of warning – if you are not good on simulators this is not the ride for you!

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach is one of our favourite beaches to visit when we are over in Florida – a good day on the beach to have a break away from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks.

Beautiful, clean white sand beaches, with cabanas and deck chairs to hire for the day.  When you are ready for a break you can promenade along the ‘new’ Beachwalk which winds for about 1/2 mile along the side of the beach and through the shops and restaurants to Pier 60 where the daily sunset celebration is held.  

We once visited on Christmas Day – it wasn’t quite warm enough to be a sunbathing day – but it was a memorable day with the beach to ourselves and the tinsel Christmas decorations glistening in the bright sunlight.

In Clearwater and neighbouring St Pete’s there are about 2000 restaurants to choose from.  At Clearwater Beach we like Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill and Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe and the beautiful Hyatt Regency’s SHOR Seafood Grill which has excellent local seafood dishes on it’s menu.Image

Toll Roads in Florida

As you travel along the toll roads at first it can be a little confusing as there are different coloured signs – blue and yellow. We have come to realise that the blue toll signs signify a toll that you will have to pay as you exit the toll road, yellow toll signs are tolls which are payable on the road that you are driving along.

Always ensure you have some coins as some unmanned toll stations only take coins and there is no attendant to provide change. If you get really stuck there is usually an envelope which you can take to make payment through the post, ensure you know exactly the time, place and amount of toll required to settle your debt.

Florida is one of the states that has the most tolls – there is a Wiki page which details all the tolls and if you use map quest to map your journeys this will advise you where to expect the tolls.

If you are going to travel a lot along toll roads during your vacation/stay you may want to consider purchasing a sun pass as it could save you money, however, in our experience for an average 2 week holiday you are better off paying as you go – unless the car rental facility is offering a deal on the sun pass when you collect your hire car.