10 Must-Dos in London

10 Must-Dos in London
10 Must-Dos in London

Venice Trip Report

Venice Trip Report
Venice Trip Report

Disneyland California Trip

Disneyland California Trip
Disneyland California Trip

WDW ICP - Booking flights

This is more a word of warming than a long post, but me and most of the fellow ICPs have learned from the error of our ways: sometimes booking really far in advance doesn't pay off.

My flights cost me £580, now they are available for £520... £60 less, or about 100 dollars. These prices definitely do fluctuate, but there’s a sale on at the moment and turns out that the Virgin Atlantic sale is in fact a real sale.

My family's flights that were £778 each indirect are now available through a diff company on the same day for £643 (almost £400 between the 3 of them). The day after they could have flown direct for £734 (still £120 cheaper and direct)

So sometimes if the price is too high initially, it may actually be worth waiting.

Next: Read my Florida Bucket List

WDW ICP - December 2012 Update

It's been a little while since my last blog post about my upcoming trip to Florida to work at Walt Disney World, so I thought I'd give you an update.

It's now coming up to Christmas time and the process has moved on a fair bit. After completing the interviews, we received an email offering us a place. I will be working on Operations - rides or ticketing, which is exactly what I wanted! We won't know where exactly we'll be working until we get there. I, of course, replied accepting the offer immediately.

I then received an email confirming my acceptance saying that an information pack would be emailed to me. This information pack is Yummy Job's step by step guide on 'what to do and when' to make sure you get to Orlando.

The first thing you must do is pay for, and complete, your criminal background check. This was due by 14th November 2012 and cost £60 in total payable to YJ, that's almost twice what the government charges to do it but we have no option here. The result then gets sent to Disney with a simple Yes or No answer. This takes 12 weeks to come back so we should know the results by the beginning or middle of February. As long as you haven't committed any crimes, or been arrested you'll be fine. 

The next step was booking flights - personally I wanted to travel to Orlando then after my program travel to New York, and then back to London. I got my Lon > Orlando and NYC > Lon flights for £580. I also paid a £120 supplement to upgrade to Premium Economy on the way back for the added comfort (hopefully I'll get to snooze a bit) and because it allows me two bags on the last leg which is very nice in case I get a bit carried away with all the shopping available in New York (I can easily see this happening!). I also booked an internal flight coinciding with one my parents are taking, this was with United and cost about £90. These are all booked and I'm looking at staying at the Chelsea International Hostel in NYC as it looks like a great price for what I need - a basic room. 

In addition to all this we were emailed the "highlights" of the program as a PDF which is essentially all the important info on one sheet. I also had to email my flight details to Disney and received my first Disney ICP email from Disney themselves after the interview confirming they'd received these and saying that I'd be responsible for getting to chec-kin on the day and not to pack too much! 

They also said to make sure the Immigration officer stamps my white I-94 card as well as my DS-2109 when going through customs. (I don't know what either of these are. Or why we have to do this but it was in bold underlined letters so it seems pretty important! 

The YJ information pack also said we'd get our official Disney welcome pack in February - I'm very excited for this! They also have notes on travel insurance, medical insurance, and the visa. All of these are in good detail and are very helpful. There is an additional Visa only sheet available to download on their website once you've been approved for the program which goes into more detail. 

The Visa will be done approximately 4-6 weeks before departure and 1 month before we must also pay our $100 program assessment fee which Disney uses to fund the cast parties!

Medical insurance has been arranged by Disney and costs $70 a month. This must be paid before leaving for the US and is compulsory. 

Lastly, we were emailed a sheet telling us how much the whole process would cost us...$505 for insurance, visa costs etc and £74 in CRB checks and courier fees. The cost of calling the embassy is £1.23 per min from a BT landline. Plus the airfare (let's say £580 base fare!) the total of all this.. £980ish before we even arrive. Then you've got to buy work shoes when you arrive in Florida, so around £1000 total.

So if we earn about $7.80 and work 9 weeks at 35 hours each that's just $2457 or £1637. Considering you have to pay for accommodation, food, shopping etc this isn't a program you will make any money from - in fact I am expecting to lose money but it'll be a great name on a CV, a fantastic summer and a nice change of pace from the UK.

Well that's it, till next time!

Next update? Booking flights!

Tales of a Tour Guide

You may be aware that I am a Tour Guide during my university holidays. I give open-top bus tours of London three times a day showing people the likes of Big Ben and the Tower of London. It could be a repetitive job if it weren't for the customers: they constantly amaze me with new facts, incredible questions or acts of kindness. Below I'll tell you some of the more unusual stories and questions.

1. A thoughtful man - Once, in the Summer of 2012, we were stuck just before Tower Bridge as the bridge had opened to left a shift through. One of the customers asked me if he could get off the bus to buy something from the shop across the road. I said something along the lines of "You'd have to ask the driver downstairs but I don't see why not" as we were going to be stuck there for 10 minutes or so anyway, and I had checked and there were two ships passing so it could be even longer.  It was a hot day and it was a completely open bus so it was a nice opportunity to sunbathe whilst telling people all about the bridge, the Tower of London on the other side, and the river cruise they could catch from the next stop.

The man hopped off the bus and walked over to the shop across the road. He same back a few minutes later with two bags filled with bottles of water and cans of coke and proceeded to hand these out to everyone on the bus. I was dumbfounded to be honest. What a lovely gesture.

2. A thoughtful girl - It's always nice when guests show an appreciation of your tour, by thanking you and even tipping you (all tips must be split 50/50 with the drivers). This is always nice and appreciated. It took me by surprise one day when a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years of age, came up to me in my seat on her way out one day and gave me a big hug and said "Thank You." I've never felt so appreciated in the job as at that moment.

3. A generous tipper - In contrast to what I've said above, a good tip as always appreciated as having to pay for travel and food every day adds up to about £50-60 a week which is a substantial portion of my wages. This is fairly normal for a job but being in a position where you have the potential to be tipped is always nice. One man after paying over £25 for the tour thought I was so good that he tipped me £20 extra. Amazing.

4. A curious game - One day we were approached Big Ben on the bus and I remember saying the word 'downstream' as I was referring to the river Thames. At that same time a teenage boy on the other side of the bus shouted 'YES' in the same way as if he'd just won an achievement on a game. Turns out he had, the parents had asked their kids to draw up a bingo grid and write words down that the tour guide might say, turns out 'downstream' was the last word this guy needed. Bingo!

5. A backwards mentality - So it was the Summer of 2012 and we were on the bus, one of the many marches or parades that happens every year is Gay Pride in London. The group were loving the tour until I mentioned that we were going to be diverted because of the gay pride event as we wouldn't be able to go down a particular road as the march was walking down and the bus obviously wouldn't be able to get through as the roads were closed. 5 minutes later, we found ourselves in crawling traffic with the march surrounding us. A lot of very skimpy and hilarious customers were around including one transvestite man dressed as a urinal which I thought was hilarious. The man opposite me didn't, he said this was disgusting and we shouldn't encourage gay people to express their rights and continued to made rude remarks. I told him he couldn't say that in the UK and it was a hate crime. After almost an hour of being stuck moving slowly with the parade, we eventually got onto a different road and to the next stop. He got off and tipped me. What a backwards mindset.

6. A scribbled note - We had just reached the Tower of London, the point where most people hop off the bus to get the river cruise. One lady asked me to hold on a second as her daughter was just getting something, so I asked the driver to wait. The girl handed me something in my hand on the way out, I said my usual "Thank you, I really appreciate it", assuming it was a note, it felt like money or paper. It was paper, I turned it over and to my surprise there was a phone number - an Australian phone number for me to call. The girl was a bit young for me, she looked about 15. This wasn't going to happen and she never did receive a phone call.

Interesting questions that have been asked over the years:
  • Do I get off here for the river cruise? 
    • No. While at Oxford Street - with no river in sight.
  • How do I get on the bus? 
    • One guide apparently told a customer there was a ladder round the back. They went searching for it.
  • Was the Tower of London built by Walt Disney as a prop for a film? 
    • No, it is about 950 years old!
  • Is there an elevator on this bus? 
    • No. You use the stairs.
  • Does Sweeney Todd really kill everyone who comes to the London Dungeon
    • No. He's not alive, the story based on him is most likely fake and that'd surely not go down too well with the authorities.
If you would like a private London tour guide look no further than Private London Tours.