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Worst holiday ever. January 8, 2006

Posted by ayasawada in Personal, Travel.

I’ve never been so glad to be home in my life. Hello, I’m back home from a “holiday” that was 30% fun and 70% trauma. It starts at the beginning.

We were supposed to fly off to Orlando via Toronto on the morning of Christmas eve. We were supposed to fly. Our family holiday began without the family. My parents and my sister have Malaysian passports and according to Air Canada, you need a transit visa to transit through Canada. The travel agent had said otherwise. No visas, no travel, no family. Mother was distraught. I had no problems since I have a British passport and was encouraged to go along with the family friends we were travelling with.

So arrival in Toronto minus the family. No real problems except going through US immigration when I was pulled to one side into an interrogation room. It was a bit like being pulled up by the Men in Black, walking through automatic doors to be confronted with an immigrations marshall who had no sense of humour. “Why are you going to Florida?”. “On holiday”. “‘Holiday’ huh?” “Yes”. “How come you’re travelling on a British passport when previously you had a Malaysian passport, huh?”

“You say you’re travelling with your folks, but where are they?”
“Is this ‘resort’ you’re staying in really a resort?”
“What books are you carrying?…Science books huh?.. What kind of ‘science’?”
“What novel are you reading?”
“What is it about?”
“Are you or are you not planning to take part in terrorist activities whilst in the United States?”

Jeez. I finally got out to the relief of my travelling party. We caught the next flight and touched down in Orlando at 11:30pm Eastern Time. Spent the next two hours looking for my Uncle, Aunt and cousins who were supposed to be meeting us there after travelling from Malaysia. Couldn’t find them and instead had to spend the time listening to the whining of the most irritating members of our party. My Uncle turned up having had to take five flights across the world, had one deviation and lost all his bags. Spent the next hour trying to get the rental cars. The others failed to get out of the parking lot and drove around for an hour. My Uncle’s car, it turns out, was offsite so we had to catch a shuttle out to the offsite parking lot and arrange things there. Sitting in the deserted bus stop at 2am on Christmas Day I thought “Merry Xmas”.

Having got into the resort, waited around another hour to get the apartments and waited another half hour to get the right apartments, we got to sleep around 5am. Understandably, we didn’t rise until 11am the next morning. At least that felt Christmassy, on the couch watching American Xmas cartoons with my two younger cousins. That was as Christmassy as it got. All our plans for the day had gone out the window: shops were all closed, the theme parks all full. So we just went to the general store to get supplies. In the afternoon they decided to go to Downtown Disney to take a look around. “Great”, I thought, “finally something fun that the kids will really enjoy”. Wrong. We walked around for an hour whilst the Grinch-like Jean screamed “Don’t go anywhere! You’ll get lost ! We have to go to the airport at 7 O’clock!”. Talk about treating everyone like kids, although to be fair my two cousins were kids.

At seven we paid another visit to Orlando international airport to pick up another member of our party. Waited around the airport because Orland IA is a nightmarish place full of rude staff and chaos. Finally found our Uncle John, who’s luckily a relaxed guy, otheriwise all this might have got to him. We went for dinner and I thought “at least we’ll have a nice Christmas meal”. No way. Most of the other folk were sick of Turkey and stuffing. So we went to a buffet place that I’m sure would be perfectly adequate on any other night. But at Christmas it just seemed cheap, with not even a tacky Christmas tree to raise the spirits. The meal of burgers, steak and pasta was perfectly ok, but as I say, not what you want on Christmas day. And it was ridiculously cold. This was Florida for goodness sake! Worst Christmas Day ever.

The next few days were better. After getting stuck in traffic trying to go shopping my Uncle decided it was wiser to abandon the rest and take the kids to the Magic Kingdom. Hooray! Disney World! Happy families turned into screaming families with huge queues, overpriced merchandise and hideous sickly Xmas music. But after the previous day I needed it. DisneyWorld is great, especially when you spend it with younger kids (unless you’re their parents). Went shopping the next dayand relieved myself with some retail therapy at the malls. Then accompanied my Uncles family to the Kennedy Space Center for a dose of science communication on my holidays. Interesting, a bit stale, but nice to have been there.

I argued with my mother by text everyday over our arranged schedule. “Have fun” she said, but she also didn’t want me to ruin our remaining plans, whilst attempting to rearrange their own to make the best out of the five days they had left. Transit visas in hand, my family finally arrived on Wednesday night at 11:45pm. This necessitated a third trip to the airport. They were delayed (of course), partly because the computer systems had crashed at check-in so everyone was delayed by an hour and a half. By the time everything was sorted out at the airport we finally got into our resort and to bed at 5am.

The whole gang got to meet up at Epcot on Thursday which awas good becasue my Mum could finally have a laught over the ridiculous situation with everyone else. The kids had a nice time nad I learnt a bit from the ‘science parts’. Also found a ridiculously good Mitsukoshi in the Japan part of Epcot. Myf amily broke off for the Animal Kingdom and MGM parts of Disney on Friday. Arguements ensued of course. My Mum insisted she wanted the most out of the holiday so I rushed around, then of course my parents said they didn’t want to rush…. Nevertheless we had a decent time. Spent Saturday shopping and them spent New Years eve in a really nice Crab restaurant with my Uncle and others. Got home in time to see the bell drop in Times Square on TV and fireworks across the lake from our apartment window.

Sunday we took my older cousin (13) to Universal Studios, which was great. More arguements, more rushing but that’s what theme parks are like I guess. We went back the next day and overall Universal was probably the highlight of the trip.

Tuesday we were finally headed home. Or so we thought. My Dad boarded his (separate) flight with no problems. Ours was delayed by a couple of hours. No problem. We got through the chaos of the airport and made it to the gate. I was browsing in the newsagent when suddenly my sister runs in and says to come back quick since it’s an emergency. Ou flight was delayed another hour and a half, which meant we would miss our connecting flight in Canada. My Mum was frantic. Given the pulava (sp.?) over the transit visas, we were given lots of conflicting information by the Air Canada staff, who finally advised us to stay put in Orlando and rebook the earliest available flights. That was Thursday so we stuck around. The others were able to stay with relatives in Toronto at worst so they decided to proceed with the delayed flight and wait for stand-by tickets back to London. As it turned out the connecting flight waited and they caught it back to London, albeit five hours late.

My Mum, sister and I, meanwhile, were caught in the hell of Orlando airport. Our bags couldn’t be taken of the flight so we lost those to Toronto. Because of chaos and another computer failure, plus the fact that the help desk, ticketing desk and check-in desk are ludicrously the same place, we were in the airport until 8pm that night, when we finally got our hotel. At least it was a nice four-star one.

I enjoyed a fifth visit to the airport in the next morning to sort out tickets out. By the afternoon we finally had a few hours to ourselves, so we went shopping for a change of clothes. On Thursday morning we arrived back at the airport again and, with a traditional delay, actually made it to Canada this time. “What else could happen?” asked my Sis. She had to say it. We were all set. The crew had announced the films and the pilot even said were would be 10mins early. Then at the runway we were told there was a technical failure. Having sat in the plane for an hour they finally announced that we couldn’t fly and were stuck in Toronto. They offered us $100 to fly on Air Canada as compensation. 400 angry passengers waited around for four hours only to be told to come back in the morning. We then queued for everything: meals, bags, hotel vouchers, shuttle bus in the freezing -6C Montreal snow. When the fifth 400 person queue was over we put our heads down at 2:30am praying that tomorrow the nightmare would be over. On Friday morning we got up at 5am and were at the airport by 7am. The flight was delayed (of course) but finally went ahead. We trouched down back in London at 10:30pm on Friday 6th of January, three days later than expected.

I’ve never been so glad to see Heathrow airport in my life (and you know how much I hate the place). Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. I have come to the following conclusions:

1) No more family holidays
2) If I never see Orlando airport again it will be too soon
3) Never ever fly Air Canada

I know my Mother arranged all this so we could have a ‘nice family holiday’ and relax after such a hard year, but my gosh what a trip. Best laid plans? Worst holiday ever.

EDIT: Add to that list my original way of thinking 4) Never travel over Xmas and New Year



1. k-li - January 13, 2006

Awwww that sounds like a nightmare :cry:

Glad you had at least a few days that were okay!

Hope you have a good new year etc!

2. Aya_s - January 15, 2006

I’m sure it’ll be better…. once I get over this illness! Why are January’s always horrible?–>

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