The Brits Guide To Orlando Holidays
Us brits love our two weeks in the sun and when it comes to holidays, Orlando holidays are the best!
With year round great weather, the best theme parks in the world and shopping so great, we need to take an empty suitcase just to bring all our bargains back with us to Blighty, it's no wonder millions of us head to the sunshine state every year for our holidays.
It's so easy to get away from it all too, with year round direct flights from several UK airports to Orlando
and a flying time of around 9 hours, we can be living the dream in no time at all.
We're Emma and Shane, living in Orlando but originally from the UK, we love sharing the best of Central Florida with everyone back in the UK, and with so much to do, we'll help you see it all right here in Florida!
Your holiday starts with the planning and that's true, especially when your planning an Orlando holiday!
Whether you’re a regular visitor to Central Florida or this is your first time visit, we want you to enjoy every second of your time here in Orlando, from meeting Mickey and Minnie at Walt Disney World to exploring Hogwarts at Universal Orlando.
We're not just a Guide to Orlando, we're a real life couple sharing our experiences living here in Orlando,
for all our latest on what's happening here in Orlando you should subscribe to our YouTube channel.
So get ready for your Orlando getaway, you Gotta Go now!
Choose Where You Want To Stay
Where to stay? A Disney or Universal hotel, an International Drive or Lake Buena Vista hotel, or a villa or hotel in Kissimmee, that's the question and here in Central Florida you have an endless choice of accommodation!
The perks of staying away from the theme park hotels are that accommodation is cheaper and if you’re visiting in a big group or with the family, a villa will give you much more space, room to relax and the option to cook.
While these options are a good way to save money, being further away from the parks means you’ll either need to rent a car or pay for transport each day. Staying on site might be a bit pricier, but there are lots of fantastic benefits, including incredible theming in the hotels and resorts and not having to travel far to get to the action!
Plus, if you’re staying at a Disney or Universal hotel, you’ll also be able to benefit from free transportation
to and from the parks, as well as early park admission.
Decide If You Need To Hire A Car
Having a hire car is the best option for getting around Orlando and it is pretty much essential if you are staying at a villa or a hotel outside of the parks.
The exception is the hotels on International Drive, where not having a car is managable as you can use the I-Trolley to get around locally and most of the hotels offer shuttles to the theme parks.
We still recommend hiring a car as everything is pretty spread out and it's just so convienient being able to see and do what you want, when you want.
Choose The Theme Parks To Visit
When you think of Orlando's theme parks, you think Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, but there is more, much more... we have SeaWorld Orlando, LEGOLAND Florida and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
The first thing we’d recommend when planning your trip, is to choose which parks you want to visit.
Explore Everything To See And Do
There are lots of exciting things to experience in Orlando that you might not have considered. It’s worth doing a little research here to see what else you want to see and do apart from the theme parks.
Decide When You Want To Go
Firstly, we know if you’re visiting with kids, you might have no choice of when you visit, and you have to go during the school holidays.
But, if you have a bit more freedom with your dates, it’s worth considering visiting off peak as there are plenty of perks for the off-peak season, such as shorter queues for the rides, ewer crowds and cheaper hotel rates to name just a few.
January, February, September and November are generally quieter months, which is great for those wanting to avoid the crowds and the summer heat.
You can expect the summer months and holiday seasons in particular to be busy, avoid, if you can, America’s Spring Break holiday (usually two weeks on either side of and including Easter), the week of Thanksgiving (the 4th Thursday in November) and the Christmas and New Year period.
Although we have just said it can get busy around the holidays seasons like Halloween and Christmas, it's worth considering if you want to experience the parks spectacular special events and decorations!
Make A Rough Plan
Once you've decided what you really want to see and do, you should make a rough plan for your holiday.
Orlando's not the same as a week in Benidorm, you can't just turn up and wing it, even if your not into planning every minute of ever day of your holiday, at least have a rough day by day itinerary.
A plan will help make sure you’ve got time to do everything on your list, it doesn’t have to be too detailed and you don’t have to stick to it, but you’ll feel more relaxed if you have a rough idea of what your doing when you arrive, especially if you haven’t been to Orlando, a good plan will help!
Theme parks will be at the top of your list but you should break theme park days up with trips to the water parks, shopping days or a trip to the beach.
Buy Your Tickets In Advance
You really will save time and money if you buy your theme park tickets before you arrive in Orlando. Buying tickets on the gate is more expensive and there are always long queues at the ticket booths.
Prepare For Orlando's Weather
Orlando offers year round good weather but it can vary depending on when your visiting, for example, December through February can get chilly, far better than the UK of course but you might need a jumper or cardigan for daytime and a light jacket for nights.
If your coming during the summer holidays then prepare for the fierce heat, humidity and short, sharp daily thunderstorms, an Orlando summer can be exhausting, when temperatures can hit 100F (38C) and the humidity is close to 100%.
Please, remember lots of suntan lotion, you can and will fry unless you’re wearing good sunblock! For us Brits, if you from white to red raw then SPF 30 or higher is a good starting point!
Oh and pack a rain mac, you never know when you might need it, they’re lightweight and easy to carry, if it rains or you get wet on a water ride, you’ll need it.
The Theme Parks Are Huge
Be aware of the huge scale of the Central Florida theme parks, The Walt Disney World Resort alone covers 47 square miles and theme parks are well spread out, allow plenty of time in whatever you do and try not to schedule too much in any one day, pace yourself and you'll have a much better time.
Forget The New Shoes
One of the most important items to pack has to be a pair of comfy shoes. not new trainers or flip flops!
Set Your Alarm
Arrive early for the theme parks, especially at busy times of the year, the gates will often open a good half hour before the official time and it pays to be among the early birds as you can often do a lot more in the first hour of the day than later in the morning when things get real busy in the parks.
Head for the big rides first as these are the ones that will draw the longest queues later on, and try to save the shows for the afternoon when it’s hot and you need a sit down to relax in air conditioned comfort.
Chill, Relax And Pace Yourself
Pace yourselves, especially in the summer heat. With the combination of high temperatures and long queues, you need to be patient and relaxed when touring the theme parks, you can't take them at a fast pace or you will end up tired, irritable and ill!
Drink plenty of water, and try to avoid alcohol, tea and coffee, as they can leave you dehydrated.
Use plenty of high factor sunscreens, and keep applying them when you stop for a break or are queuing, sunburn will make your life miserable! Especially at the busy times of year, and in the height of summer, give yourselves an afternoon break from the parks, return to your hotel or villa for a nap or some pool time, or perhaps grab a meal.
You will really feel the benefit of taking a rest when the parks are busiest, and then returning for the evening entertainment when it’s cooled down a little. We know you want to pack your days full, but we also know you’ll enjoy it more if you take mid-day breaks!
Look After The Kids
Young children have an absolute blast in Orlando, but they can easily be overwhelmed and exhausted.
Let their stamina dictate your pace and be aware they will need frequent rest stops, drink breaks and chill out time, even more than usual! Many parents try to force the pace with their kids, and trust us, this leads to melt down of epic proportions
The theme parks provide water fountains, sprinklers, and more to help keep the kids cool, even the a/c in shops can help the kids and you keep your cool!
Consider Using Disney Genie+
Purchase Disney Genie+ if you want to spend as much time on the rides. For just $15 extra per person per day, Disney Genie+ allows you expedited entry (via the Lightning Lane) on over 40 rides throughout Disney World’s theme parks. Individual Lightning Lane passes can also be purchased on a per-ride at a few of Disney’s most sought-after attractions.
Consider Universal Express Plus Passes
While it isn’t necessary during the slower months, purchasing an Express Plus pass for each member in your group during summer or holiday periods can pay off in terms of less time spent queuing.
Arrive at the parks early or purchase online and be aware a few attractions are not included, plus Universal Express Plus passes can sell out.
SeaWorld Quick Queue Passes
Seaworld Orlando offer a similar pass to Universal with their Quick Queue Unlimited passes.
They are a real help in peak season and they also offer Signature Show Seating for specially reserved seating at their most popular shows.
Food Glorious Food
Try to have a good buffet breakfast before you arrive at the theme parks, you are in for a very long day!
Think stacks of pancakes covered in maple syrup sitting beside a plate of fried eggs and bacon should do the trick to keep you going! You should try Denny’s, Sizzler or I Hop who all offer amazing breakfast!
For lunch or dinner there are literally hundreds of restaurants in and around Central Florida,including british favorites, Ponderosa, Golden Corral, Shoneys, Cici’s Pizza, Black Angus and more.
Unlike the UK, when your in Orlando tipping is not optional.
A 15% to 20% gratuity is normally given for food and beverage service (not self-service). This is definitely the rule rather than the exception, as waiting staff rely on gratuities to make their living. Plus, as you’re expected to tip, you can expect that every element of your dining experience is good.
Orlando is a genuine shoppers paradise, you will need to bring an empty suitcase with you!
The two Orlando Premium Outlet Malls are just a short distance from the theme parks and have everything you want and then some. These malls are huge, boasting hundreds of shops with huge discounts up to a staggering 65% off, make sure you visit!
Brands include Calvin Klein, Diesel, Michael Kors, Reebok, Ugg, Abercrombie and Fitch, Victoria’s Secret, Mac Cosmetics and even Disney’s Character Warehouse for all your Mickey and Minnie souvenirs.
Of couse, us Brits love to shop and it's not just the outlet malls, Orlando has The Mall At Millenia, The Florida Mall, The Loop and Disney Springs. Plus don't forget to check out the huge superstores, Walmart and Target plus Publix too is worth a visit.