When we returned from Bruges, this trip had seemed a long time away. However the days and weeks in between had just flown by. Karen had picked up a few days school work, whilst I had made the most of the weather sorting the garden out and destroying the old shed before single handedly constructing the new one. And so in no time at all we were rushing around packing for our final holiday of the year.
As ever Karen got herself in a tizzy over her packing. It takes me all of 20 minutes to sort out my clothes and get them into our packing cubes and then thrown in the case. I just count out enough T shirts/shorts/pants etc for roughly 2 weeks and I'm done. Whereas Karen agonises for hours, producing lists of what goes with what and having separate combinations for the very hot/hot/slightly less hot/warm and not hot/less warm/cool days and then the same again for the evenings. No wonder her case is always bulging and right on the weight limit. Then there is her now paranoid level of worry of her case going missing again and so has permutations of everything also in her hand luggage. Unbelievable - not that I ever mention this to her.
But it is almost actually almost getting to the point when I wonder whether the holiday will ever undo all the stress she causes herself in the preparation for the holiday itself.
The bit of the pre holiday that takes my time (about from the original research and booking) is the 'admin' side of things. Making sure all the bookings and paperwork are correct and printed, along with all the electrical cables etc that we will need (and for this trip, any extras that I need to cater for others forgetting theirs).
Anyhow we had persuaded Neil to take us all of 100 yards out of his way on his way into work, to drop us at Norwich Airport. We were at the baggage drop desk at 8am for our 9.20am flight. Even then we were one of the earliest arrivals for that flight. There was no queue and we were soon scanning our pre paid 'Development Fee' documents to make our way through security.
First rant of the trip (Karen's stress about her packing counts as pre-trip). What exactly do they do with the £10 Development Fee? How come I only have to pay that at Norwich? Why isn't it just added to the ticket price as then I wouldn't feel so aggrieved? Why isn't it cheaper to buy online? Why Why Why? Rant over. Anyhow there was no option so I had pre paid to avoid any hold ups.
Security was easy apart from the fact my hand luggage was chosen to be unpacked due to the number of electrical wires I had packed. I really didn't mind as we had so much time before the flight and had a good laugh with the chap going through my bag. They are only doing their job and I would rather they were thorough.
The flight to Amsterdam left a few minutes late due to congestion at Schipol. I was pleased we took off over Hellesdon as I managed to get a few photos. It was only a matter of seconds before we were way past it though.
At Schipol we just had enough time for a toilet and Starbucks stop and then made our way through the extra Delta flight security. We just walked almost straight away onto the plane. We had 2 seats together with Karen taking the aisle and I the window. We were pleased to see they were serving Cava and both had a couple of small bottles of that to toast the trip. I watched 'Oceans 8' (OK), 'Deadpool 2' (Less OK but I did fall asleep for a while) and then 'I am Pretty' (which I enjoyed). Karen watched 'On Chesil Beach' (weird) and then caught up with the rest of the box set of 'Killing Eve' that she hadn't seen. The food was only just OK in parts and so we were grateful for the baguettes I had prepared at home.
I was then bored and still had some 3 hours to go, so logged onto to the free Wifi to send messages to people on WhatsApp and just as importantly get score updates from the match at Carrow Road. Technology is great when it works like this even if access is restricted to basic messaging. It still blows me away that despite be 38000 feet in the air over Canada I got a message from Barry describing the equaliser that City had scored within 5 minutes of it hitting the back of the net.
Anyhow we arrived and with our Global Entry status were officially in the USA within about 2 minutes. Well I was as for some reason the system did not recognise Karens passport but a very cheery immigration official soon sorted it out and we were on our way to collect and then pass onto the connection belt our luggage.
We had about 90 minutes before our next flight and so make our way from the E Terminal where we landed to the flights departure gate in B Terminal and had some quick food and drink to see us through until the next morning. With just 60 minutes to our flight departure remaining we walked to the gate to find our flight had been moved and we had to get back to E Terminal. Unamused by this we caught the train and hurried to the gate just to hear the announcement that due to a mechanical fault the flight would be delayed 20 minutes. This then got extended to 40 minutes at which point they gave us and told us we would now be using a replacement plane which was now ready for departure from A Terminal. This prompted a mad dash by everyone onto the train to the that Terminal. We were all so quick that we beat the crew and had to wait for them to turn up before boarding.
Our luggage was quickly out at baggage claim and the late hour fortunately meant that there was no queue at the Dollar Rental counter. Within minutes we were in the car park ready to choose our car from row 1. Except there were no cars left in row 1. We found a Dollar employee who asked if we would mind having a smaller car instead. I politely declined and so instead she upgraded us to a full size SUV which I was pleased with. It was a Kia Sorento. We took a couple of minutes sorting ourselves out and loading it up and we were on our way.
The Sat Nav showed a distance of 120 miles and a 120 minute journey time. As ever it was spookily accurate. As we started our journey we could see fireworks from Disney in the distance. The journey was non eventful and Karen had one small doze. It was just after midnight when I pulled into the Holiday Inn Express car park at Port Richey some 23 hours after I had got out of bed at home. Within 10 minutes of getting into our room we were in bed asleep.
So was the long journey worth it? Undoubtably - Yes. We are still not 100% sure if the benefit of flying from Norwich outweighs the cost in other ways. It saves the hassle of the drive down toad from the London airports which I hate.
With the London flights you have to be there 3 hours before the flight, which means leaving a minimum of 3 hours before that for the drive. So assuming you don't stay over in London the night before (which in my opinion makes the whole journey seem even longer) then this adds 6 hours to the flight time.
Flying from Norwich meant it took 10 minutes to get to the airport (with no stress) and we were there 80 minutes prior to departure rather than 180.
It is the strain of the 3 flights that add the strain. This is great when it all works but not when it doesn't. Normally the additional cost of flying from Norwich equals roughly the same as the cost of parking at the London airports. For these flights we had today, the price was actually cheaper at the time to fly from Norwich which made the decision for us.
I do like though that when you come home and land in Norwich I then don't face the challenge of navigating the M25 to get home.
One potential solution maybe to only book the flights that have the leg that goes straight from Schipol to Amsterdam without going to a hub airport first. Something to investigate for next year.