2 girls, 1 week in an Orlando holiday villa

Yesterday my friend and I travelled out to Orlando from Manchester for our annual girl’s week of fun in the sun – so I thought this week I’d give you a little debrief and insight into what that means for us.

We were on the morning Virgin Atlantic flight from Manchester.  T2 meet and greet car park – excellent service directly opposite the terminal building.  Security lines were long – you need to allow plenty of time.  We still had time for breakfast and after seeing the line for Frankie & Benny’s opted for Brodericks.

We had a good flight over – 8hrs 20mins arriving on stand 30 minutes early.  The queue for Immigration at MCO stretched from the hall to the aircraft, however, this was due to a new filtering system where ambassadors sorted arivals according to residency and last visit to the States.  We were through quickly and cleared Customs with no lines.

Then on to the car rental desks.  Historically this can be a real time eater with upto 1 hour wait.  This time though I had utilised the new skip the line facility and checked in for the car before I even left the UK.  This meant we walked straight to our car of choice.  We were through the airport by 2.45pm.

So what did we do with the time we gained – we used it wisely and drove straight to Celebration for a walk round the lakes and a scope of Kilwin’s! !

 

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Skip the line – car rental

Yesterday we flew into Orlando International.  We landed within minutes of 3 other jumbo jets Aith another just behind us.  Immigration was full and we were held on the plane for 40 minutes before we could disembark.  We then joined the back of a long queue to clear immigration, then customs and then had to wait for tram to take us across to the terminal building.

I still left smiling though!  I was smiling because I had checked in for my Alamo car rental before I left the UK.  I then clicked on the skip the line button and was able to register my drivers licence details and credit card from home.

So yesterday I was able to skip the line, we went directly to the car garage and within minutes had selected our car of choice and left the building.  It made me very happy!

Reminders for UK visitors to Orlando

Some friends of ours recently visited our place in the sun and although they had been to Florida before they had forgotten some of the things that frequent visitors may take for granted so I thought I do a reminder blog.

PASSPORTS AND VISA WAIVER PROGRAMME

Firstly, your passport, officially it must be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. You don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.  However, experience has shown us that US immigration still prefer that you have at least 6 months validity to travel to, and gain entry, to the US.

Most people will be able to travel under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).  The VWP allows most British Citizen passport holders to visit the US for up to 90 days. The types of journey allowed under the VWP include tourism, certain types of business visit and transit to another country.  Additionally, from 1 April 2016, all travellers wishing to enter the US under the VWP will need to hold a passport with an integrated chip (an ePassport). If you are travelling under the VWP arriving by air or sea you will need to provide details online at least 72 hours before travel. This is known as an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation or ESTA. For more information, and to apply online, visit the official ESTA website.  https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

When you arrive in the USA you will need to be able to show that you have enough funds available to support yourself during your stay, even if you’re staying with family and friends.

CAR HIRE

That leads me to my next reminder – if you are going to hire a car and drive in the US please take a credit card with you – even if you don’t want to use it while you are abroad, you will be expected to present one for a ‘security deposit’ when you collect your car.  Our friends forgot and in the end had to lead $100 cash which was refunded on the safe return of the vehicle.

To hire a car in the US you will also need to obtain a driving licence check code.  On 8 June 2015, the paper counterpart to the photocard driving licence was abolished. The counterpart contained information such as any penalty points you have. Similarly, old-style paper licences, issued until 1998, are still valid but they won’t be updated with penalty points. Instead, you can now view all your up-to-date driving licence information using DVLA’s View Driving Licence service.  When collecting a vehicle from a hire company many only ask to see your photocard licence or your pre-1998 paper licence – but some also want to check whether you have any penalty points. They may ask for a code so that they can check your licence online or for a printout of your licence details.  You can go online to obtain a code to give to your hire company. Each code is valid for 21 days from the date you obtain it and it can only be used once.

Go to https://www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence to find out more

TOLL BOOTHS

Final reminder, you may need to go through some toll booths to get to your accommodation from the airport and while you are round and about.  It is a good idea to keep a toll kitty with quarters and dollar bills – some toll booths are unmanned and only accept coins.  There are cameras and you will be fined if you don’t pay so don’t risk it, be prepared.

ID

You will need to carry ID for both cheques and credit card purchases.