Last year I finally managed to book my dream holiday to Orlando and although this is painful to write unfortunately it got off to the worst possible start. I booked the holiday through Tui last July after a large tax return and a big pay out from working at my brothers and immediately began counting down the days until February 10th 2020 when I’d finally set off.
The fails began the night before my flight. My first flight to Frankfurt was due to take off at 8:50AM and I am someone who would rather get to the airport nice and early with plenty of time for breakfast and browsing the shops rather than rushing through and only just arriving at the gate on time. So I decided to book a hotel near the airport for the night before so that I could just get up and walk over with no delays without having to rely on a taxi or public transport.
Getting to Birmingham airport the night before my flight was a nightmare within itself due to selfish Storm Ciara which was belting through the UK at full force. I kept checking the airport website and although a lot of flights were cancelled mine was still scheduled to go ahead so until I had any further information I figured it was probably best to just go to my hotel and get settled in. Train after train was cancelled but eventually my Mom managed to squeeze me onto a train to Birmingham New Street and I caught an equally crowded train from there to Birmingham International. It had been painful but I’d made it.
I checked into my hotel, had dinner at Frankie and Benny’s in the airport, watched the remaining two episodes of The Witcher I had left and then settled into bed ready for my early flight. At 5AM I woke up and found I hadn’t received any notification that my flight was cancelled so I was relieved but decided I should double check on the airport website just in case. Lo and behold, it announced my flight was cancelled.
My original plan had been to wake up steadily, checkout of the hotel at 6AM and walk over but now I raced to get dressed and rushed over to the airport to find out what was going on. There weren’t any Tui staff around but my flights were actually with Lufthansa who were really helpful, they gave me a phone number so I sat outside the airport and rang their main office. I was praying they’d put me on a flight to Dublin and I could change there (the storm had died down in England by this point but apparently it was still going at full force in Germany) but the soonest they could get me on a flight was Wednesday 12th February. Two days from my trip lost.
I know it could’ve been worse but I’d been so excited for this trip that I had a little cry outside the airport before ringing my Mom and explaining the situation to her. I was worried about how I’d get back to the airport on Wednesday morning but she immediately told me not to worry because she’d get up and take me herself. Once we were done I had breakfast in the airport before catching the train back home. Luckily I don’t live too far from Birmingham Airport so getting home wasn’t the end of the world.
Initially I’d dreaded those 48 hours at home, I thought they’d go at snail’s pace and I’d spend the whole time thinking about how I should be in Orlando but to be fair they went quicker than I thought. On Monday I watched ‘Ladybird’ on Netflix before going to our local cinema to see ‘Birds of Prey’ then on Tuesday I chilled at home before going to surprise my Nan in the evening (who had no idea my flight had been cancelled and had assumed I was already in America). Before I knew it my alarm was going off at 4:20AM on Wednesday morning and it was time to set off.
The flights went as well as they could have, there were only a couple of slight fails. The first being that I seemed to have completely lost my nerve on flights as normally I listen to music during take-off but I was too scared to do anything until the plane had levelled out and even when it had music just wasn’t distracting me the way it normally does. Luckily I had my Amazon Fire Tablet with me so I managed to watch a couple of episodes of Derry Girls to keep myself calm. Then on my long-haul flight to Orlando I watched my first movie (Ready or Not) and by the time it was done we were two hours into the flight so I decided to check whereabouts on the map we were – we’d just flown back over the UK. In future I think I’ll just pay extra and go direct, an absolute waste of 4 – 5 hours.
We landed into Orlando bang on time and then we had to go through border control which honestly was a joke, I’d estimate I was stood in that queue for at least 50 minutes. I know they’re strict in America but come on. I didn’t need to wait for my suitcase when I got through, I imagine it had done about 30 laps by the time I was cleared.
On Monday when my flights had been cancelled I’d rang my hotel in Disney to inform them they could expect me to arrive on Wednesday instead – they said it was fine but since it was so early over there could I call back later when everything had opened just to confirm and I said I would. However in the meantime Tui rang me and informed me they’d sort the hotel and transfer for me – they’d been so useless helping me with my flights that I let them get on with it as surely this is what I’d paid them for in the first place.
The transfer went fine, I got on the Magic Express which was fun as there are screens which tell you useful information about the hotel and the parks, they also have trivia and play cartoons as well. I always say the worst part of landing in a new country for me is having to find my hotel so not having to do that was such a relief.
The hotel I’d chosen was All-Star Music – the All-Star hotels are basically Disney’s budget resorts and were essentially the only ones I could afford. There are three – Music, Movies and Sports. Movies was slightly more expensive for some reason and I didn’t want Sports as I’m not a fan of any type of sport. So I’d settled on Music and was looking forward to checking in, maybe grabbing dinner, having a shower and collapsing into bed.
The queue for check-in took a while but eventually it was my turn and up I went. Only to be told Tui hadn’t been in touch with the hotel and they were now fully booked so they didn’t have any room for me. I wasn’t too worried when she told me as I assumed since I had a booking and I’d paid for it they’d have to sort it out for me but when the receptionist rang Guest Services they basically told me they could accommodate me at All-Star Sports but Tui still had my hotel money so I’d either have to contact them or pay $1650 for a new eight night booking.
The poor receptionist saw how upset I was about all of this and came round to give me a hug then took me outside to point me in the direction of the hotel. I can’t fault how lovely she was, she gave me another hug and then told me if I was truly stuck I should come back and find her as she was on until 11PM.
Luckily All-Star Sports was like a five minute walk away so I set off and rang the number I’d found for Tui on Google, got through all the automated questions only for a voice to tell me ‘sorry, our offices are closed right now. Please call back in the morning’. I’d been awake almost 24 hours at this point, was sweating to death and was now officially worried I’d have nowhere to stay for my trip. I burst into tears and just about managed to pull myself together when I walked into the reception of All-Star Sports.
I was set off again when the receptionist called me forward and asked if I was checking in. I sobbed my situation to her and she disappeared to find a senior member of staff. She was gone for a while and my anxiety only built but she came back over, handed me a box of tissues and said “Please don’t worry about this, you’re at Disney okay? We will sort this out for you.” She went back off and eventually came back with a senior member of staff and they explained to me that I could secure my booking with an $86 deposit and I’d have to call Tui in the morning when their offices reopened.
Their customer service was fantastic to be fair, I wept to the receptionist that it was my first time and it had all gone wrong so far and she gave me a ‘1st Visit’ badge, found me a pink magic band at my request and then gave me a couple of meal vouchers – one for dinner and one for breakfast the next morning. She was like “Go and get yourself some dinner, calm down a bit, get into bed and then you can sort this in the morning.” It was lovely but by that point I was way too tired for dinner so when I got my room number I went straight there, had a shower and collapsed into bed.
I hadn’t slept a wink on the plane on the way over so I figured I’d collapse into bed and sleep until 7AM but I kept waking up and eventually at 5AM decided to just start the day. I was just so worried about not having anywhere to stay for the rest of my trip that I couldn’t drop off. I messaged my Mom to let her know what had happened and rang Tui again.
The night before I’d let them know the situation and they’d said they’d sort it for me but I hadn’t received anything from them so I called them again and they basically said I’d have to wait until the American offices opened but that they’d sort it out for me. To be honest I wasn’t entirely hopeful that they would but I had no other choice than to trust them so I got myself some breakfast in the hotel with my voucher, packed my suitcase, stored it with the hotel and then set off to Hollywood Studios to try and start my holiday.
Unfortunately Tui had also kept hold of the money for my park tickets so when my Magic Band didn’t work I got directed to Guest Services who advised me of this. I was so close to losing my s*it at this point but luckily the woman at the desk managed to get me a one day ticket and made sure my fast passes were also linked to the Magic Band.
My first day in the park was honestly perfect, it was almost like the staff knew how crap my trip had been so far and went out of their way to make my day perfect. Just before my Frozen Singalong fastpass I decided to grab a drink and a snack so I went to a cart and ordered a chocolate chip cookie and a bottle of water. The woman picked up another cookie and said “This ones broken so you can have it for free” and when I moved down to pay the man my money he was like “You know what, have it all for free. Happy first visit.”
Finally at around 3PM I got a call from Tui to say my hotel and park tickets had been restored and I shouldn’t encounter anymore problems. I text my Mom who told me I should pop back to the hotel and double check but no, screw them, I was having fun and I wasn’t going to let this ruin my holiday any further. I stayed in the park, had an amazing day and when I got back to the hotel the staff had taken my luggage to the room and already linked my tickets to my Magic Band. The holiday really was saved.
Any fails that happened after that were pretty minor and probably not even worth mentioning. Nothing too catastrophic happened until my return flight to Frankfurt.
After a week of non-stop walking and queuing around the parks I was almost looking forward to sitting down for seven straight hours (if I liked flying) so I didn’t feel as nervous as usual when I boarded the plane. We took off and I remember thinking that in the grand scheme of things it was a decent take-off and naively assumed this meant we were in for a good flight.
About an hour into the flight we hit some turbulence and I remember thinking ‘oh s*it’ because the seatbelt signs immediately switched on and the pilot made a hurried announcement to tell the cabin crew to take their seats. And then the plane dropped – a few people went ‘ooh’. Me? I legit shrieked/screamed. Then it dropped again and it was shaking all over the place and I was honest to God panicking. The poor guy sitting on the window seat leaned over and told me “Planes never crash due to turbulence, we’re not going to crash” to which I just chanted back “I DON’T LIKE IT, I REALLY DON’T LIKE IT!”
How everybody else calmly just carried on watching their movies I’ll never know. I’ve never felt panic like it in my entire life and every time I think about it I honestly feel sick to my stomach… During that moment I remember thinking ‘I can never fly again after this’. It was honestly horrible and what’s worse is that that’s not as bad as turbulence can get. I couldn’t stand anything worse than that.
After about an hour although the plane was still a bit shaky the seatbelt sign was turned off and the cabin crew continued serving dinner, of which I only managed a few bites because I was genuinely worried that if the turbulence got bad again I’d vomit. One member of the cabin crew serving drinks asked if I was okay and when I told him no he tried to keep me calm and then said he was gonna finish serving but would come back and have a chat in a bit. He did and although he hasn’t cured my fear of turbulence or flying (I doubt anything will at this point) it was nice of him to go out of his way like that.
Luckily the rest of the flight wasn’t as bad as the initial turbulence but it was still quite shaky and every time I’d pray that the plane wouldn’t drop again. Another reason I’d definitely get a direct flight in the future (because I’m trying not to let that bad experience put me off forever) is that it was shaky flying over the UK and it both annoyed and terrified me that I’d have to go through it all over again to get home.
The confidence I’d built over the last year on flights was now completely evaporated and whenever the plane from Frankfurt to Birmingham made the slightest movement I was alert. I tried to relax and watch a movie on my Amazon Fire Tablet but in the end all I could do was thank God it wasn’t too long of a flight. I thanked God even more when we were back on solid ground, finally at home in England.
Normally on the return flight I’m so exhausted from all the walking/sight-seeing that I manage to get some sleep but I didn’t get a wink of sleep so I was DRAINED by the time I got home and gratefully collapsed into bed at 7PM. I didn’t even get the weekend to rest because before I booked my holiday I’d booked a ticket to see BabyMetal in Manchester so I had to get up and get ready for that.
I’d say that out of all my trips so far these were my worst travel fails but regardless it was still one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on and I’m desperate to go back to Disneyworld Orlando one day. I’ve already started researching but can’t find a deal as good as the one I found for this trip! I’ll have to keep looking.