It’s all over bar the shouting, or should I say the blog.
We have just returned from our second trip to Orlando, and thankfully it was another success.
So, now it’s time to pass some of the things we have learnt from both trips on to you, and hopefully it will help you have as successful a trip as us.
Booking your trip.
One of the hardest parts of any holiday is booking it.
I often find it a complete mind-field to choose accommodation, especially now that we have to consider accessibility etc when it comes to Noah.
For any holidays that aren’t as straight forward e.g skiing, USA trips etc I find it easier to go with a travel agent, and while it may cost a little bit more, I find it gives us peace of mind knowing that we have that back up.
We booked both our USA trips with American Holidays, simply because we found them the best value and so easy to deal with.
Here’s a link to their site – American Holidays
However, when booking a trip with a travel agent, make sure and have a list of the specific things you are looking for in your accommodation, it makes life easier for both you and your travel agent.
Ok, so back to booking a trip to Orlando, here are a few things you should consider when booking your accommodation.
- the optimum length of time to visit personally I would say is 3 weeks if you want to see everything, however no matter what length of time you go, by planning correctly you will make the most out of your trip.
- try to get breakfast included, eating out can be expensive and having to pay for breakfast will make a big dent on your budget.
- if breakfast isn’t included, try to get accommodation that offers self catering options, this way you can go to a Walmart or any other supermarket and make your breakfasts in your room in the morning.
- location really is key, if you plan on doing all the Disney parks I really would advise staying closer to their parks, Kissimmee for example is right beside all the Disney parks, Disney World is a good 30minutes by bus from International Drive (the main strip you could say).
- If you still want to stay on International Drive and do Disney, then I would recommend hiring a car for the days you want to do the Disney parks especially if you have someone in your party with a wheelchair, it will just make everything more comfortable, but then again there is nothing wrong with sitting on a bus and watching the world go by either.
- If you can afford it at the time of booking add the tickets for the parks into the booking, the cost of park tickets is huge and you will need to factor this in to your budget.
- book early, direct flights are available, and a bigger choice in accommodation the earlier you book.
So ok, really a holiday shouldn’t be all about planning or organising, but when it comes to Orlando and doing all the parks I really cant emphasise enough how important it is to plan.
Now although we didn’t do Disney World this time, they offer a lot of planning tools before you go to the parks, so I would highly suggest going on to their site and familiarise yourself with all the planning tools they have to offer.
You can go to their site here under the My Disney Experience Section WDW Planner.
The Disney parks are not only enormous but there are 6 of them which include the two water parks, and while it is magical, if you haven’t done a bit of planning they can be overwhelming and frustrating for all the family.
While Universal Studios isn’t quite as big as Disney, it would still be no harm to familiarise yourself with their 3 parks which includes one water park.
Here is a link to the planning section of the Universal Parks Orlando – Universal Maps
Its important when looking at the parks to check the height restrictions of the rides, crowd planners (which tell you the busiest times for each park) and opening times.
As I said above, another thing to do before you go is to purchase your tickets for any attractions you want to see, it just means you are ready to go when you get there.
A great site to buy tickets from is Attraction Tickets Direct, you can find a link to their website here.
Another thing to plan before you go would be to check the location of your accommodation on google maps. This will give you a chance to familiarise yourself with the location and the surrounding area before you go.
There are some amazing Facebook groups out there,that will not only get you all excited for your holidays but you will get loads of information and tips and tricks from them I will link a few below.
Also don’t forget to download both the Disney and Universal apps.
These apps are absolutely amazing, they will give you real-time ride wait times and interactive maps for the parks.
Make sure when packing you bring small backpacks, these will be essential for park days out.
And of course not to forget the currency exchange.
Check with every bank etc before you go who is offering the best rate as they can all charge different commission rates.
Tips for the Trip
- One of the first recommendations I would have is to head to a Walmart and stock up on all the essentials.
- You will need to drive (if you have rented a car) or get a Uber/Taxi to the Walmart, but it will save you a fortune.Walmart has everything, grocery, clothes and everything in between.
- One thing that will save you lots of money is bringing your lunch into the parks, the parks are very expensive for food and snacks and it can be very hard to pay above and beyond for basic fare.
- The parks have huge security before entering so make sure to familiarise yourself with what you can and can’t bring in.
- Water, water, water, you literally can’t have enough to drink, there are drinking fountains everywhere so make sure to fill your bottles of water up as you go.
- When heading to the parks, getting up early ( I mean 6.30am early) is in our opinion a must. If you try to get there before the park even opens, you will be amazed the amount of attractions you will get done before the crowds start building up.
- Another option is to go in later in the evening, it will be a bit quieter and a little cooler aswell.
For eating out etc especially now that the exchange rate isn’t as good as it once was, I would suggest looking out for happy hours.
Happy hours will often have great deals on meals and drinks (alcohol in a restaurant bar is very expensive, on average €6.50 per pint of beer)
Tipping – if there’s one thing we always find hard to get used to is the tips. Tipping is huge in the USA, but there is one thing that I would say. If you feel you haven’t got the service etc to justify a tip then don’t give one!
All of the receipts will have a suggested amount to tip, the suggested amounts start at 15% of the total bill. Some establishments over there will include the service charge, so make sure to check the receipt carefully.
Keep plenty of dollar bills handy for this reason.
There are loads of bargains to be got on clothes, medicine and shoes.
I think thats one of the biggest reasons us Europeans head over to the USA.
If you do plan on going shopping while you are in Orlando, make sure and head to the information centre in the shopping centres first to pick up your discount booklet.
These booklets can give you even more off and we used them ourselves on this trip.
Another tip is to make sure and have your US sizes before you go, itll save you alot of hassle trying to figure out what sizes you should buy.
TAX IS NOT INCLUDED ON ANYTHING UNTIL YOU GET TO THE CHECK OUT.THIS COUNTS FOR EVERYTHING.
For now these are the main tips, advice etc that I can think of but as I think of more I will add to the blog.
I will be doing seperate blogs on packing for the parks, restaurant recommendations and a review of the accomodation we stayed in over the coming weeks.
All our love
Our Wheely Big Journey