So you've booked your Disney World holiday?
Congratulations you won't regret it! As I've mentioned in my previous post on Disney World I have been three times. Each time it seems to get better and better and I come home wishing I had enough money to live in Florida, spend each day going to Disney World and Universal Studios, and buying all the different flavours of Oreos at Wal-Mart, obviously. My wife Kerry loves Disney and absolutely loves Florida and Disney World. If she had her way we would go every year. I just don't shit out money yet.
I am not an expert in Disney by any stretch of the imagination, in fact, I probably only know about 1% of the hints and tips on what to do/see and eat in Orlando. I hope that what I have experienced will help some people who have maybe never been before. I won't write about each park but I will give some things you must do. Also, I may add a few other things that I think you must do in Orlando. So here goes:
As I've previously mentioned in another post, do not book your trip by walking into a travel agent and thinking that handing over 8-10K is Ok for a trip to Florida. It's not! When we went in 2014 it was my wife and I and our three year old son. Altogether it probably cost us £4500 for two weeks. You should book everything separately and on-line. I strongly advise you to stay in a villa, there are many sites that offer villas at great prices. They are great if you are going in a group as you can split the price. They are great for everyone, each time we have stayed in a villa it has been extremely quiet, in fact, I swear every street has been deserted, I've never seen anyone else apart from us. You get your own pool so you don't need to worry about sharing the pool with some child whose decided he couldn't wait to get to the toilet. Unless it's your own child. If it is, unlucky. They are extremely spacious and it's nice to just have your own place. There is no one around you to make noise below, above or, at either side of you like there are in hotels.
Virgin flights are meant to be the best, we haven't flown on these yet but we will next time. You're meant to get extra leg room, handy for me as I'm 6 foot 3 and also they generally leave an hour or so earlier from England than all other airlines, which means you get the pick of the cars (if you've hired one) when you get there.
We bought our tickets from Ticket master. We went for hoppers, which basically means you can enter and exit any Disney park on any day of your holiday as many times as you like. You buy Universal and Islands of Adventure separately if you wish.
Ideally, you need to hire a car when you're in Orlando. Unless you stay on the Disney site and only want to go to the parks you will need a car. You can get some great cars and also rent a sat nav. Make sure when you sign for your car you add "no extras requested" at the bottom to ensure you don't get charged for anything else that you didn't want or ask for.
Don't forget you will need to fill in an ESTA before you travel click the link below to go to their website. You must fill this in before you go.
You now also need an e-passport to enter the USA, if you don't have one you will need to get in touch with the passport office so you can get one. Otherwise, you will need to apply for a visa before you travel. These are all separate to any info you give to your airlines.
As you generally have to be at the airport hours before we decided on our last trip that we would stay in a Premier Inn at Manchester airport. you can usually find a one night stay and 2 weeks parking and shuttle service to the airport for around £100. It is also a short drive to Trafford centre for something to eat for your tea if you don't want to eat in the hotel.
Uuuhhh!!! Airports! Worst things ever to wait around in. Luckily on our last flight with Thomas Cook they had a "sun down" check in. This meant that up to 10pm the day before you travel you can check your bags in for a fee of £5 per passenger. Brilliant! Having a three year old we decided that we would take advantage of this. We got to the airport around 6:30 pm and looked for our desk. We were quite worried at first as there seemed to be nobody around at the side where our flight company should have been located. We walked to the end and found one man on his own and zero, that's right zero people waiting in the check in queue! Checked our bags in, 15 minutes, done, no problem. This was going to be easy, and it was. We had also paid for fast pass security searches. This was about £12 for the three of us. We did this partly due to there being a terrorist scare at airports around the time we were flying and there had been reports of security search queues lasting for more than four hours which meant we could have missed our flights. We showed our reference number on the day and five minutes later we were through security and were able to relax and wait for boarding. Both these things took a major stress off us, as we had our three year old, we were worried on how he would behave and so were glad these services were available to us. Kids or not, for the small price you pay it is worth doing.
Take your own headphones so yo don't have to shell out a fiver to buy theirs. Also, pray you don't get sat in front or behind a family with four kids, it's happened to me before and isn't nice on a 9-hour flight, especially when the parents can't control their kids.
I hate people that push in or rush to the front of queues but when you land I strongly advise you to disregard your morals and start throwing people out of the way to get to the front. The queue very quickly builds up and the US passport control does not understand the phrase "get a move on". Also, don't stare at the policemen's guns!
It is advisable to check before you travel so you are aware of what is going on in each park on each evening as some parks have firework shows etc and may only be on once or twice throughout your holiday and they are not to be missed.
Magic Kingdom is the main Disney park and is fantastic, my personal favourite rides are, space mountain, Mickey's Philharmagic (an amazing 3D show - a must see!) and Buzz Lightyear's space ranger spin (we went on this ride 3 times)
The wife likes the "it's a small world" boat ride but there is something inherently serial killery about a load of wooden people moving and singing in a child's voice constantly whilst you ride around at 3 mph in a small boat. The parades are also great, these happen quite often. If you're not bothered about them it's a great time to go to some of the more popular rides as they will be quieter.
Food/Drink you must try at magic Kingdom:
Dole Whip float, Lefrou's brew, Mickeys ice cream bar.
Our favourite rides at Hollywood studios were: Rock 'n' Rollercoaster, Toy Story mania, Tower of Terror and meet Buzz Lightyear and Woody at Pixar place (not quite a ride but it was worth it). Fantasmic is a show they put on on an evening. If you only take one thing away from this post make sure it's this. We have been to see every time, it is a show on the lake and is brilliant, they even spray water into the air and then play a movie on the spray! It has to be seen.
Epcot is probably my favourite Disney park, at one side of the park it has a "world showcase" section. You walk through several different countries all set out and selling things and food from that country. Mission Space, Soarin are two must do rides. During the food and wine festival (September 14th - November 14th) it can become extremely busy on an evening in the world showcase section. The fireworks at Epcot are amazing and they light up the water making a spectacular event.
Universal Studios and Island's of Adventure are great parks also.
Some fantastic 3D rides such as Transformers, Despicable me, Spiderman and a 4D Shrek show. The Hulk ride and Simpsons simulator are a must. You can also have a Duff beer in Simpsons land, and buy a giant doughnut for only $4.99 (or it was when we were there).
Downloading the MyDisney experience app is also a great help. Each park has free wifi. It may seem sad to be on your phone while in such a great place but with so much to do it is worth it. It is also worth researching fast passes beforehand to ensure you get on some of the best rides without having to wait in enormous queues. If you can afford it then buying the photopass service is a great idea. We got it in 2014 with us having Joseph and it got us some amazing photographs in great locations. The photographers are everywhere throughout the parks as well so you can easily get your money's worth.
Going to a water park is also a great idea especially in the hot weather. it also serves as a bit of a relaxation day, my favourite part is the lazy river. You can sit in an inflatable doughnut and slowly be floated around the park!
There are so many things to see and do in Orlando and even more in Florida itself (Miami is only a 4-hour drive away). Wal-mart is great for all your food supplies and also great for presents. It is massive! Golden Corral is a great buffet place to eat for your breakfast, it really sets you up for the day and is cheap. Millers Ale house is a sports bar that we loved. We only tried it last time but went back twice as it was great. the food portions were huge, one meal would easily fill 2 if not 3 people. Be prepared to come back a stone heavier from your Florida trip, if you don't, you haven't done it properly!
There are literally thousands of other things to write and thousands more that I don't even know about, it is definitely worth spending some time online before your trip to read up on everything as going to Orlando "blind" is a mistake, you will miss so much. there just isn't enough time in two weeks to do everything so planning is the best decision you will make.
I hope this helps anyone who is going. Feel free to get in touch to ask anything you want and i will attempt to find out if I can't answer it myself.
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