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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Orlando International Airport – avoid Fridays!

So we have just returned from our latest trip across the pond.  It was a fabulous trip, great weather.  The only downside was travelling on a Friday both in and out of Orlando International Airport (MCO).

We arrived on Friday 15th April and after a 8+ hour flight across the Atlantic the last thing that you want to hear is a message from the captain that Immigration is full and then we are being held on the aircraft for it to clear.  We were held for 40 minutes before we could disembark and then as you can imagine the immigration hall was not empty!  3 jumbo jets had landed just before us and it was so busy.  The automatic machines were working, however, we had to queue for quite a while in the usual queue before we could get to them and then we were corralled to another holding bay to see a normal immigration officer who took all our finger prints again – very bizarre.

Travelling home on Friday 29th April was unfortunately no better – this time the queues for security checks were the longest I have ever seen, even with the additional desks that they had opened.  Once past the immigration officer, you were then corralled into a theme park style snaking queue (line) which literally took us from one side of the terminal to the other before snaking round to a scanner check.  It was a nightmare and as you can imagine temperatures were rising both because it was 31 degrees outside and because some passengers simply hadn’t allowed 1 hour to get through security.

My advice is to avoid travelling through MCO on a Friday wherever possible.

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!

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.