Our Greece holiday was officially cancelled this week. We had only paid part of the deposit and thankfully it was fully refunded with a quick phone call to Tui. Even though it was inevitable, I still felt a little bit sad.
I couldn’t help but think back to when we were all sitting in the holiday shop together booking it. The kids chose the hotel because it had an awesome looking water park and we even upgraded the room and treated ourselves to a swim up one. My daughter who is 10 was especially really looking forward to jumping in the pool first thing in the morning right outside our room. I’ve never stayed in a swim up room before and I was looking forward to a bit of luxury for a week too. Even more than that, almost 3 months into lockdown and the thought of someone cooking tea for a full week seems like some kind of unobtainable fantasy!
As some of the restrictions that have been enforcing lockdown life in the U.K. are being relaxed a little, people are understandably looking to get their summer holiday plans back on track. While the rules slightly differ between England and Wales about what we are and are not allowed to do, international rules apply to all. Whereas some countries like Italy are open and welcoming U.K. tourists, others are being more cautious due to the high Covid-19 infection and mortality rates we have experienced here in the U.K. Some countries are not allowing travellers from the U.K. or the U.S. while travellers from other countries are welcome. Other places like Madeira for instance, are open to tourism again, however, travellers will be tested at the airport before they can gain entry.
Socially Distanced Holidays
After you’ve thought about how to drill the kids about not playing too closely with their new friends in the pool and other guests pushing in the queue at the buffet table while you try to keep 2m between you and everyone else, you have to also consider the quarantine rules in place upon your return home. Currently the line is 2 weeks of self imposed isolation at home for anyone entering the U.K. from travel abroad. That may well be imaginable now while the majority of people have become used to working from home but we don’t know how things will look by mid-August, and whether or not people will be expected to go back to work. In which case, how will that play out? Would people have to cancel their holidays because they can’t just take 2 weeks of work to isolate, and then where would they stand with regard to a refund if all international travel is officially back on? As with everything so far it seems as though we’re all just feeling our way forward as best we can for the time being.
Can I Travel from the U.K. Yet?
More information on the rules around self quarantine upon return to the U.K. on the ITV website here. We can expect these rules to be in place until at least the 29th of June 2020.
A detailed synopsis of different countries current policies regarding tourism is on the CNN website here.
I hope you manage to sort out your travel plans. For us we have so far missed out on 4 trips/holidays this year (2 family breaks and 2 individual trips). Although I’m absolutely gagging for a trip away somewhere (anywhere!) I’m grateful that things have worked out the way they have for us and that we have been able to be at home together and safe amongst the turmoil.
Ah friends! What is going on in the world right now eh? It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong hasn’t it. I’ve been hiding and hibernating in my house along with the rest of the nation and so I haven’t been thinking much about travel.
I’m sure by this point there are things we’ve all missed out on, lots of things no doubt. For me, I’ve missed a couple of trips and holidays. A weekend break to Paris over the May bank holiday although that was already cancelled from when Flybe went bust. We had a family week away to Chester booked over the Easter half term which had to be cancelled. I was looking forward to that one, I’ve never been to Chester and we were talking about driving up to Liverpool for a day out as part of it. Sophia and I missed out on our Disney on Ice girls day trip we had planned to Cardiff and Rich is meant to be away to Spain right now on a boys golf weekend. All of which we’ve thankfully had refunds for.
Of course, it is what it is and it’s a small thing in comparison to what is going on at the moment. Looking forward, it seems our family holiday to Rhodes will be cancelled at the end of June also. So instead I’ve just been watching some old travel vlogs and a lot of T.V.! If you fancy a dose of travel inspiration you can see which travel vloggers I watch on the RESOURCES page.
Rich has been working so it doesn’t feel like my life has been all that different as lame as that sounds, except no school runs (yay!). We’ve done the equivalent of a whole summer with no day trips at all which to be fair, is very unusual for us. Normally we go somewhere most weekends, a national trust place or a visit to Bristol to the zoo or the ship. Throughout the week during the summer holidays while Rich is in work I would usually take the kids out somewhere at least twice a week, Penarth pier or again, a national trust place (God bless the national trust). That could be the most middle class thing I’ve ever said but I stand by it. But if we imagine every week of the last 8 has been an average working week then it doesn’t feel much different to normal for me.
Things I have been doing since the lockdown:
Avoiding the news in the main
Writing – prompts from a book about writing and entering monolgue comps on Twitter
Things I have been doing differently since the lockdown:
Wearing clothes from the back of my wardrobe that I like but would never wear in public
Taking care of our new guinea pigs
Watching vlogs about how to care for guinea pigs (ask me anything guinea pig related)
Video calling my friends once a week. This has kept me going some weeks to be honest and it’s nice to catch up with them weekly, usually I’d see them about once a month.
Drinking a lot of gin. First time we’ve actually made a dent (well me, solely) into our alcohol cupboard.
Homeschooling. It’s very different to the homeschooling I did before. This is more like completing the tick boxes so I feel like my kids aren’t behind their peers. Homeschooling is more relaxed and enjoyable for both parties.
Exploring my local area more through running and walking.
There have been times when I have felt that I should be using this time more wisely, I should be planning future trips and researching places to visit but I have found it difficult to think past the current moment. I gave myself a therapy session and came to the realisation that it’s my mind’s way of taking care of myself. Sort of like a protective barrier, just to think about now or the very next thing, like lunch. So that’s what I’ve done.
I hope you’re going easy on yourself too, and are safe and well.
Dream Plan Explore is a family travel blog. I’m Kate, wife to Rich and mum of our two children aged 10 & 4. Would my friends describe me as an avid traveller? No. But would I say I’m quite well travelled? Well no. But I am really good at day-dreaming about travel, in fact it’s my favourite hobby along with blogging. Trawling the skyscanner and air bnb websites is my idea of relaxation and I’m really good at planning. The exploration is the best part. Children are natural born explorers so travelling with a young family is more fun than people think (once you get over what people think).
Yurt Free Zone
You won’t find us staying in a yurt village BBQ-ing goat meat over an open fire but still, I do gain a great deal of self value in sharing new experiences with my kids. Taking them on holiday makes me feel like I’m being a good mum, basically.
I love showing them new countries and the different ways people live while learning alongside them. Whether that’s ordering a warm croissant in a boulangerie in Paris by prodding enthusiastically at the sneeze guard glass or something as uncultured as meeting Daisy and Goofy for breakfast at Chef Mickey’s. Not all my posts will be about food I promise. I’m just hungry while I’m writing this.
I’ve always been a bit of a day-dreamer and 99% of those day-dreams are about travel. Places I’ve never seen and places I long to visit. So Dream Plan Explore is a place for me to write them down, store ideas for later planning, and share our family travel memories too.
Under the Dream tab you will find fantasy posts about all the places I haven’t been to but have heard about and been thinking about since. Like Rio de Janeiro (thanks Pixar).
The Plan tab will be full of city break itineraries for city breaks with kids plus mini break ideas and tips for travelling with kids. We’ve been to Walt Disney World Florida as a family twice and have another trip booked for 2021 so you will find Disney planning posts under the plan tab too. I’ll include a post about flying long haul with young children because I know a lot of parents feel the doom about it.
Explore is the best part, here you can find posts about all the fun things we’ve done and the places we’ve been. You can look at the pics to see what it’s really like because my photos are very much ‘mum on holiday’ and not so much ‘I carried a big lens around with me all day that I know how to work properly’.
Yes I will be letting you know if they have a kids menu and if it has chicken nuggets on it. I wish my kids didn’t eat chicken nuggets but they do so let’s just be kind. I’ll give an idea of how easy it is to be there with children in general (Bristol airport I’m side-eyeing you as one of the few U.K. airports without a children’s play area). Also under the Explore tab will be posts about our days out in South Wales and Bristol to give you some ideas of places to visit with your family.
Been There, Done That.
Last year was a good year for visiting new places. I did 2 mum’s only weekends away with friends without any of our children. Which was a Christmas miracle in itself, friends. One to Venice which was jaw-droppingly stunning and one to Dublin. Although I got blind drunk in Dublin so didn’t see much of it. All the more reason to go back. I did a couple of nights easy-jetting to Newcastle with my daughter to visit my friend. We went to center parcs for a long weekend in summer. Our big family holiday was to Walt Disney World Florida in October which I planned for 18 months prior. And loved every second of it.
Some of the more memorable day trips we did were to Bath Christmas market and the S.S. Great Britain ship in Bristol, and scouted out a banksy round the corner from it too :).
Don’t mention the C word
This year let’s be honest travel is not looking healthy. I have unfortunately already had to cancel a city break to Paris with my daughter and our friends due to Flybe going bust. We are currently right in the thick of things with the corona virus (at the time of writing March 2020) so booking any travel is off the table for the time being. That just means more time for day dreaming about new destinations. Especially if we’re all stuck in self quarantine.
Later in the year we have a family holiday booked to Rhodes so you can expect some lovely beachy pics, hopefully. Rich is going on a golf mini break to Spain (although it might be U.K. based with the way things are at the moment). I might ask him to do a dad guest post about that. Though I imagine it will be quite boring.
Never say never.
Your travel dreams don’t have to collapse along with your pelvic floor! Squeeze! There are ways of getting out there and exploring new and exciting places. Let’s do this! And to those travel families out there staying in yurt villages; thank you. I devour your vlogs. Keep em coming. 😉 Never say never!
I had no idea where to start with writing about the most magical place on earth – Walt Disney World.
Should I do a post about planning? Best rides for kids? Perks of staying on Disney property? Best shows to see? Best snacks? Disney dining plan? I had no idea where to begin. So here’s an overview of our holiday just for starters. We went to Walt Disney World Florida for 11 nights in October 2019. We are a family of four and our children were aged 9 and 3.
Flights to Orlando
We booked with Tui and flew premium with them from Gatwick to Walt Disney World. We stayed overnight at Marriott Courtyard which is Marriott’s like budget sibling and I wouldn’t recommend it. While the main communal areas are very lovely the rooms are really dated, the beds well used (and ours was dusty which sounds really snotty but it is a bit off putting).
Tui fly to Sanford Orlando and not to Orlando International like other airlines (Virgin, Norwegian are some you can use for International). Tui now fly from Bristol to Sanford Orlando so if we went again we would definitely go from Bristol.
Sanford Orlando is about a 50 minute transfer to the Walt Disney World area whereas International is only about 30 minutes. Sanford is a much smaller airport so there’s less queuing. However, Sanford was looking really outdated on this trip and I think they are in the process of upgrading some of the areas.
The kids were awesome on the plane. We spent a bit extra to go premium and it was so worth it. I thought it would be like economy extra with a bit more legroom but it was much better. The seats were really spacious and comfortable, the food was lush and we got a little night pack each with a mini toiletries kit. Very posh service with prosecco and orange juice served before take off and alcohol included (though I’m T-total now after my last trip to Dublin but that’s another story). It was lovely and nice to not feel so cramped for the 9.5hrs. Another added perk of Premium is you can use the No1 lounge in Gatwick which has free papers and buffet breakfast included.
Choosing a Disney Resort
We stayed at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort which is a moderate resort. They have value resorts (pop century, art of animation etc.) moderate resorts (Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans etc.) and deluxe resorts (Grand Floridian, Animal Kingdom Lodge etc.). Disney are really good at taking care of their guests so you won’t be disappointed if you choose to spend the extra to go deluxe. We visited the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian and they are jaw dropping resorts. Equally, as the Disney customer experience is at the centre of everything Disney do the moderate resorts are lush too.
Staying at a Walt Disney World hotel means you get perks such as free Disney transport between resorts and parks, and you can book your dining reservations and fast passes for the rides a bit further in advance.
We’ve stayed at the Caribbean Beach before so we knew we would love it. It was lush to see it again but this time with an upgraded lobby and brand new restaurant Sebastian’s which we enjoyed so much we ate at twice.
Our first day was straight to Animal Kingdom which was our favourite park on our last visit but also to meet up with Rich’s cousin and her family who had gone out a few days before us from Manchester.
All of us love Animal Kingdom. It’s African themed and it’s very leafy which means shade (which is something you’re in constant pursuit of in the Florida heat) and gorgeous to walk through. My little boy is 3 and animal obsessed so it was his favourite place and he kept asking throughout the rest of our holiday if we could go back to ‘the zoo’. Pandora world of Avatar is also at Animal Kingdom. The floating mountains are eye-popping and the theming there is something else.
Florida is 5 hours behind the U.K. (it was when we travelled but Florida does change the clocks in October too so check your dates) for the first few days we found we were all awake super early. We’d visit the parks in the morning and be back to the hotel (and A/C) by about 3pm. So we mixed busy park days with hanging out at the hotel pool. Caribbean beach is a big resort divided up into villages. Each village has it’s own pool along with the big main pool which has slides and a toddler splash pool. Everyone is allowed to use any pool but we find the village pools are usually really quiet and easy to get to from your room.
Our holiday was 11 nights so we got to go to most parks twice. So you can kind of split the big rides between 2 days rather than trying to get everything done at once.
Personal Disney Highlights
Some highlights for me were Soarin’ which I’d never been on before. I loved that, that’s at Epcot. I really enjoyed the food at breakfast at O’Hana but my favourite character meal was Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary which was just far and away the best one we did. Ooh there’s so much I loved! The Frozen Ever After ride at Epcot was amazing and we also all loved the Na’vii river journey ride at Animal Kingdom but I had seen that on so many vlogs before I went I felt like I’d been on it already!
Rides for little ones
My daughter really enjoyed going on some of the faster rides this time and she loved 7 Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom. My son also loved the rollercoaster he went on called the Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom and he’s still talking about it. I didn’t rate The Haunted Mansion (sorry to all the die hard fans of that ride) which was a shame as it was one I was looking forward to. It did break while we were waiting though and we were crammed into this hallway which wasn’t much fun. I just thought it needed a bit of an upgrade into 2019.
Disney Magic is Real
There is so much to say about a Disney holiday. It’s like no other holiday I’ve ever been on. It’s jam-packed busy but jam-packed with magic. You bound from one experience to the next like an excited puppy with the help of the lovely cast members in anticipation of what’s next. What amazing thing can top the look on my child’s face on that last ride? And there’s always something that does. Then just when you’re beginning to believe that Disney magic is actually real suddenly BLAM you’re on the plane home and it’s all over. No sooner have you touched down than you’re on airport wifi looking up deals for your next visit. Then your 3 year old looks up at you with hazy eyes and says “Are we back in the real world now?”
Main Disney Takeaways:
Don’t fret about the ages of your children there’s really so much to see and do for all ages.
The Disneylife app is essential, showing maps, wait times, plans, reservations and your photo passes.
The Skyliner is awesome! Make sure you try it.
Cast members make Disney. They all know their stuff and have degrees in how to speak to children.
Don’t worry about queues. We didn’t queue for longer than 15mins for anything. Use your fast passes and away to go!
If you can get a Disney dining plan definitely do it. The food is very pricey and it’s great to have it all pre-paid. It just takes away the stress of trying to get the best value for your money at each place.
All of these photos were taken by the very talented photo pass photographers working across the parks and experiences. If you are not sure about buying memory maker I would say to do it 100% . It’s so easy, just tap your magic band and lovely family pics (with you all in) go straight to your app. Keep an eye out because you might catch a deal where you can get memory maker for free with your park tickets like we did.
I will be doing other posts all about Disney soon. I know I read blog posts and watched vlogs like it was my job before we went. Partly for planning but mostly just for the excitement of the build up.
If you would like to see more of our trip you can watch our vlogs here.
If there is anything specific about going to Walt Disney World you would like to know about tell me in the comments below and I’ll include it in a post.
Comment on one of my Disney pics on Instagram to let me know when you are going to Disney.