Last month I received a very, very, very exciting email. The girls and I had been invited on a press trip to Walt Disney World in Florida; one designed exclusively for pre-schoolers. After our incredible trip to Disneyland Paris last year we were ridiculously excited to pay the famous Orlando theme parks a visit.
Next week I'll be bringing you A Week of Walt Disney - five posts about our five days at Walt Disney World - but this week I'll be writing separately about actually getting to Florida (TA DAH!) and all about the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we stayed. Travelling with kids can be a terrifying prospect if you've never done it before, so I figured it was a topic worthy of a post all of its very own.
Where do I begin?!
So three weeks ago, along with my Dad, the girls and I found ourselves sat in the Virgin Holidays v-room at Gatwick airport, eating croissants and playing Nintendo, about to jet over to Orlando, Florida courtesy of Disney Destinations and Virgin Holidays.
Although I was OVER THE MOON to be given the opportunity to visit America with the girls, I can't deny I was mildly concerned about travelling long haul with them. I had visions of being weighed down with luggage at the airport with kids running off in opposite directions, and then there was the flight itself. Daisy had flown short haul before, but Evie had never been on a plane and the thought of a nine hour flight with them both
As it happened, I needn't have worried at all.
Our holiday began in the Virgin Holidays v-room at Gatwick. Oh my GOSH, booking in here is so worth doing when you are on a Virgin holiday with kids (there is one at Manchester airport too). Not only are you whizzed through airport security, you can then completely relax in a stylish (but child friendly) airport lounge pre-flight. My fears of the girls causing chaos and running off in opposite directions completely disappeared the moment we arrived.
The lounge is completely enclosed, so there is no way for the littlies to escape, and has an absolutely amazing view of the runway, which kept Daisy and Evie occupied for ages. Plane spotting aside, there is also a playroom for kids that is brilliantly equipped with toys, colouring activities, computer games and a TV showing Disney Junior programmes to get you in the mood. There was a lego wall (complete with lego 'waves') that both girls thought was awesome! The best bit is that the room has glass walls, so you can watch your small people whilst sipping a cappuccino from one of the comfy chairs just outside.
There's also free papers, free wi-fi, plenty of plug sockets to give your gadgets a final battery boost before getting on your flight, computers, computer games and a football table to entertain the grown ups.
Then, of course, there is the unlimited complimentary refreshments to take advantage of. The Virgin Holidays v-room serves hot drinks, smoothies and fruit juices as well as fresh fruit, cereal, yoghurts, waffles, pastries and cooked breakfasts. This was perfect for us as we'd had to leave the house at 6.30am and, despite having a light breakfast before our taxi arrived, we were ravenous by the time we'd got airside at Gatwick at 8.45am. Daisy was in her element and ate three bowls of coco pops and yoghurt with sprinkles, while Evie ate a full English and the majority of my Dads too.
Another bonus of waiting for your flight in the v-room is that you are called for your flight so don't have to constantly panic watch the departure screens like I do whenever I fly anywhere. Even if I know the plane isn't scheduled to leave for two hours I have to check constantly and the moment the status changes to 'boarding' I find myself running for the departure gates like a lunatic. Another pro of the v-room is that, should your flight be delayed for any reason, you can stay put and carry on enjoying the hospitality until the plane is ready for you.
The flight to Orlando went so much better than I expected. Virgin Atlantic are definitely my favourite airline. Whenever I have flown with them in the past, the cabin crew have always treated me (and every other passenger) like royalty - and they were equally brilliant this time with the girls.
There were lots of children on the flight, which I would imagine is pretty standard for one to Florida, and which made me feel a lot less stressed about travelling with mine as I knew most of the other parents would most likely feel the same way I did.
Daisy was as good as gold for both flights out and home, and Evie shed a few tears on take off and landing on the outbound flight (which I presume was down to the new sensation of ears popping) but was brilliant on the way back.
I totally impressed myself by being über prepared and packing all sorts of activities to keep them amused for the duration of the flight but they were more than happy watching films and playing games on the in-flight entertainment system, eating (great food, Virgin, thank you!) and having a good old sleep as well.
All in all flying with the girls was a brilliant experience and I am already planning our next long haul trip. When we book with Virgin Holidays in the future I will most definitely be returning to the v-room too. Prices for adults start at £24.50, kids (aged 2-11) from £14 and under 2s go free. It can only be booked as part of a Virgin Holidays package.
Don't forget to pop back next week to hear all about our adventures once we arrived in Florida! xoxo