Orlando is as much an adventure as a holiday.
In fact, if you choose to visit all the theme parks while you are there you may find that you need a holiday when you get back! Without doubt, its probably one of the best family holidays you will have with your kids, but what surprised me was how great it is for couples too. I travelled without my kids on an inspection trip and I had such a fantastic time (sorry Luke & Alex – I probably shouldn’t say that!) There are direct flights to Orlando with Aer Lingus making it so easy to get there and transfer times from the airport are no more than 20 minutes. Flying direct from Ireland to the USA allows you to go through customs in Ireland, so once you arrive in the States you are treated like a domestic passenger and avoid all the queues – bliss!
Depending on how much time you have you really need to plan your stay. If you are travelling with young kids, Disney is a must. The Magic Kingdom, as its name suggests is magical! There are more rides for younger children here and they can meet their favourite Disney characters. They have daily parades too which are fantastic for adults and children to watch. If you can let them stay up late, the firework shows are well worth it. Try not to go to Disney on your first day because the kids will probably be too tired to appreciate it and will inevitably fade before the fireworks begin. There are four Disney parks, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios so depending on whether you have kids, and their ages, you may choose to select specific parks rather than try to see them all. Bear in mind there are over twelve theme parks in the Orlando area and four waterparks so unless you are there for three weeks you won’t see them all. I can’t stress enough how important it is to plan your trip and allow for rest days and also shopping days in between!
Discovery Cove for instance, where you have the opportunity to swim with Dolphins, needs to be booked in advance as they limit the number of visitors to the park each day. It may seem expensive at $289 but this is an all inclusive park so all meals and drinks are included and your ticket automatically allows you entrance to Seaworld and Aquatica too. If you upgrade to the Ultimate package, Busch Gardens is included in the price and you can go to either park as many times as you like within a 14 day period.
If you don’t want to go to Discovery Cove, the Orlando Flexticket might be for you. You have unlimited access to Seaworld, Aquatica, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure , Wet ‘n Wild and Citywalk. The Flexticket plus includes Busch Gardens and a free shuttle bus from Orlando. If, on the other hand you want to see everything, then the Orlando Freedom ticket plus is for you, this has entry to all of the Disney Parks and all of the parks on the Flexticket plus and at the moment Legoland too. Now can you see why planning is important?
My favourite is Universal though, they have two parks, Universal Studios and Islands of adventure. I’m a bit of a movie buff anyway but even if you are not, the simulator rides are amazing. You really feel like Optimus Prime is grabbing you and throwing you up in the sky on the Transformers ride, the technology blew me away. If rollercoasters are your thing, there are plenty ! Personally they are not for me but I did love the water rides in Islands of Adventure, there are several and a great way to cool down during the heat. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was the icing on the cake for me. The attention to detail in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley not to mention the two simulator rides and the Hogwarts Express – as the American’s like to say ‘awesome’!
Beside Universal Studios there is City Walk. This is a huge area with bars and restaurants and a few shops too. I was genuinely surprised at the quality of the food here and throughout the park in general. There are plenty of nite clubs too if that’s your scene. Dare I say it but I liked the Karaoke bar- Rising Star, it’s not like the tacky ones you find abroad, you sing with a live band and backing singers – the talent is really good. Remember if you are planning on drinking you must bring ID with you, even if you think you couldn’t possibly be asked, there were people aged over 50 refused alcohol because they had no Identification with them, so don’t say you haven’t been warned!
Last but not least – the shopping! The Florida Mall is a like a traditional shopping centre with all the typical high street stores, it has Abercrombie and Fitch and the new Pink store from Victoria Secrets plus a huge range of other shops. If on the other hand you are looking for a bargain , then head for the Premium Outlets, like the name suggests, it’s mainly designer shops at discount prices. Make sure you register at the information kiosk before you start. You need to pay $5 for a discount booklet, it will save you a lot more in each shop, a massive 20% off the already discounted bags in the Michael Kors outlet alone! Remember to purchase an extra suit case on your plane ticket for your return journey, or better still pack light on your outbound journey and then you will just have to go shopping when you get there!
Like this post? Check out my blogpost on Universal Studios.