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Matt N’s Frolic in Florida 10th-24th June 2023 (10th June 2023: Travel)


Matt N

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10th June 2023 (Travel)

Hi guys. Today was a very exciting day; the start of my 2023 Florida trip! This trip is my first time heading to Florida in 4 years, and my first time heading to the parks we’re visiting this time (Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens) in 7 years, as well as the first time my grandparents have joined my family and I in Florida since 2014. There are so many new rides I’m excited to get on; VelociCoaster, Iron Gwazi, Hagrid’s, Pipeline… the list goes on! We’re here until 24th June, so today’s report represents the first in a series of trip reports posted over 14 days. I apologise in advance, as today’s report will likely be a bit dull; today’s report only covers the travel aspect of our trip. Nonetheless, I’ll start the day off from the very beginning!

 

The start of the trip was actually a lot more relaxed than usual. Normally, our Florida trips begin with either an early morning dash to the airport at 4am or a stay at an airport hotel, but due to the combination of our flight being later than usual (3:40pm) and us going from London Heathrow (a little under 2 hours’ drive from us) rather than the usual choices of London Gatwick or Manchester (easily 3 hours’ drive from us on a bad run), we were able to leave Gloucestershire at a more reasonable time of around 9:45am. The drive was fine; there was no traffic, so even with a brief stop at Reading services, we managed to get to London Heathrow’s long stay parking by about 12pm, getting to Terminal 3 itself (the terminal from which our flight departed) by around 12:30pm after the bus ride from the car park:

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I’d never been to Heathrow before, and I have to say that it’s one of the most fascinating airports I’ve ever been to! I’ve never been to an airport where you can park so close to the runway before, and seeing all of the planes queueing up in the sky to land is quite a sight! I also have to say that check in and security were an awful lot quieter than I’d ever remembered in the past; security in particular was very efficient and took no time at all to go through!

 

After that, we sat in the departure lounge and ate some lunch before heading to our gate and boarding the plane. Our flight was with Virgin Atlantic, and I have to say that it was really good; we’ve always liked Virgin, and today was no exception! While we flew, I did quite a few different things; I watched a few episodes of Ghosts and Young Sheldon, I did a theme park dot-to-dot drawing out of a book that I got given for Christmas (the drawing was of Parc Asterix!), and I spent some time trying to progress on Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which I recently re-downloaded on my iPad after having not played since I was about 14. Sadly, being a learner driver of 1 year has made me no better at it! Another cool thing I should mention about our flight is that we travelled on an Airbus A350-1000, which my dad helped to design!

 

Initially, it looked like our flight was going pretty well in terms of scheduling. The captain’s announced flight time was around 8.5 hours, which was a fair amount shorter than expected, and we were supposed to land at 7:15pm local time. However… things went awry towards the end of the flight. As we got nearer to Orlando, we were informed that there was an unpredicted thunderstorm in the area, meaning that we were unable to land safely. As such, the plane circled above a patch of ocean just off the east coast of Florida for over an hour while we waited for the storm to clear. The repeated circling formed this interesting paperclip-shaped path on the flight map:

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The prospect of us being diverted to Tampa was heavily discussed, which would have really put a spanner in the works… thankfully, the storm eventually subsided and we landed, albeit with a fair amount of turbulence, in Orlando about an hour later than expected. The storm also meant that we were held on the runway for the best part of an hour after landing, so we spent about 10.5 hours on the plane in total and didn’t get off until gone 9pm local time.

 

We then went through immigration and baggage reclaim, which were quicker than usual in fairness, and then we finally exited Orlando International Airport to get our rental car. I must say, seeing the grand foyer of Orlando International Airport was nice after the longer-than-expected flight:

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After collecting our rental car, we drove for around 50 minutes to our villa in Haines City, arriving there at around 11:30pm local time.

 

After that, we unpacked and settled down for the night.

 

So, that was the first day of our June 2023 Florida trip! I’m sorry that this report was so boring; the next one I write will be far more interesting, because it will be from an actual theme park! Given that they are the parks we have 14-day tickets for, I’d expect it to be one of the two Universal Orlando theme parks. Due to us all feeling pretty tired after our late arrival into Orlando, as well as us still needing to handle things like grocery shopping, I’m not necessarily expecting us to do a theme park tomorrow; if we do go to a park tomorrow, I’ll write about it, but I think our first park visit is more likely to be on Monday.

 

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this report; the next one will come either tomorrow or on Monday and will probably be from one of the two Universal Orlando theme parks!

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