Family stages elaborate staycation after seeing Disney trips cancelled

Alistair Mason, PA
·3-min read

A family enjoyed an elaborate staycation after having multiple attempts to travel to Disney World cancelled.

Like many, Dom and Heather Hodgson, both 34, and their daughter Scarlett, four, have been unable to go on holiday over the last year, having been forced repeatedly to reschedule a planned trip to Florida.

So Mrs Hodgson decided to set up a trip for the family, complete with departure lounge breakfast, in-flight movies and a tropical hotel – all in their own home in Cross Gates, Leeds.

“We’d not actually taken any vacation days in almost a year, so I decided we were going to take a few days with it being half term and do something with it, do something a bit interesting,” Mrs Hodgson told the PA news agency.

Mr Hodgson knew nothing about the surprise in advance, except that he had been told to take a couple of days off work, and he tweeted about the experience as it unfolded, to the delight of his followers.

In the morning they left the house with their luggage, had a walk around and found the airport “conveniently had located just at our back door”, Mrs Hodgson said.

Without her family’s knowledge, she had created a special website for online check-in, video graphics for the departure lounge counting down to their flight to Hodgeland and recorded airport announcements.

The departure board set up by Heather Hodgson
Heather Hodgson put together a departure board for their flight to Hodgeland (Dom Hodgson)

They then watched an in-flight movie together during the “journey”, while eating aeroplane-style snacks.

“We also had the iPad on the side so we could see the aeroplane taking off so it looked like a little window,” Mr Hodgson said. “Everybody had their own little drink and blanket and neck pillow.”

Upon arrival, Mrs Hodgson had set up a treadmill to use as a baggage carousel.

Mr Hodgson then took Scarlett out to “explore the area” for an hour or so as his wife transformed the home into the “tropical paradise” of Hodgeland.

“The transformation of the house was absolutely incredible,” Mr Hodgson said.

The family are part of a timeshare scheme at Disney’s Polynesian resort in Florida, so the house was set up by Mrs Hodgson as a nod to that location.

“It really is bringing the Disney holiday that we had to cancel last year to us,” Mr Hodgson said.

Mrs Hodgson said she tried not to push the Disney theme too hard because the family is “missing it so much” and it had become a “sore spot” after having to cancel a trip to the resort several times.

The family is now booked for a trip there in November, if pandemic restrictions allow.

Scarlett Hodgson on her walk tot the 'airport'
Mrs Hodgson said it had been a good way to spend ‘quality time’ with daughter Scarlett (Dom Hodgson)

Mrs Hodgson said daughter Scarlett was initially a little sceptical of the day’s activities, asking her parents: “Mummy and daddy, are you trying to trick me?”

But once they explained it was an exercise in imagination, she started “really enjoying it”.

Mr Hodgson said: “When I was taking her out, she was like ‘I want to go back to the hotel, daddy. I want to see mummy at the hotel. I can’t wait to see her!'”

The pair said being unable to see her friends in lockdown had been “isolating” for Scarlett, especially as they have had to split their time between running their business and home schooling.

Mrs Hodgson said the staycation had been “good for her”.

“It’s been a good way to spend some quality time with her,” she added.