Alright so let’s get started with the maybe not so exciting things, such as travel, accommodation, etc.
Length of visit
The first time we went to Orlando, December 2015, we went for exactly 2 weeks. The second time, December 2017, we decided to go for a little longer and we did 16 nights. I personally would love to go for 3 weeks, that would be my perfect trip… however with school holidays only being 2 weeks for most over Christmas, you may not be able to go for any longer.
For us, 3 weeks just hasn’t worked well with work, but we will definitely aim for 3 weeks at some point! Those extra 2 nights on our second trip were very nice, it doesn’t seem like much but that just meant we could space some of our hectic days out a little more, or just have a little more free time without cramming in too much.
Is this trip for you?
Now let’s just get this straight.. can you do everything in one trip? Absolutely not. But you can try damn hard! Yes we pick our favourite attractions to do at each park, we might not always get to do as many shows as we want, but we will get on every ride, that just comes down to personal preference.. but we absolutely do fit in every park or place we want to visit. Yes this means early mornings and late nights, but if I wanted a relaxing holiday I wouldn’t choose Orlando!
So what I’m saying, is know what you are getting yourself in to! If you want a relaxing holiday, then this isn’t the time to visit Orlando. It’s busy. Extremely busy. There’s even more to see and do than usual. And it’s exhausting.
But if you are okay with that then trust me, you’ll love it. Now, regulars to the area, normally hate going at this time of year, because they aren’t used to the crowds. But honestly if you just go with the right expectations then you will find it the most magical visit of your life.
On our first visit we went at the same time as a family we were friends with and they have 5 children.. we met up with them quite a lot over the two weeks and their kids did amazing. We had some seriously early mornings and late nights and they managed it fine. I’m assuming it depends on your routines and stuff at home but it can definitely be done just fine with children. They did have a couple more down/relaxing days than us but they still saw and did all the main things they wanted to do!
On our second visit, there was a group of 7 of us, all adults. But again, it just depends on the type of holiday you like or things you like doing as to whether you wanna push yourself to see/do loads or take it a little easier.
Before I Travel
Knowing how busy the parks are going to be, I normally try and do a rough itinerary. I know some people don’t like to plan everything, especially on holiday, but some things you will need to book in advanced, so it will have to be slightly planned.
We try and book our trip way in advanced. If you’re booking through Virgin Holidays then you can normally book about 18 months in advanced. Not only does this give you longer to pay it off, but it’s also just super exciting!
Once you’ve booked, you have some time to research, make rough plans, see what attractions you definitely don’t wanna miss out on. If there’s a group of you going, this also gives you time to discuss certain things, like what each person wants to do most, things people maybe don’t want to do, etc.
Park Tickets. There are various different variations of tickets you can get. You can arrange to purchase them through most travel agents, or you can use Attraction Tickets Direct, who have all different options available. For both of my visits and all future visits I always plan to have access to every park for 14 days (21 days if I eventually visit for 3 weeks!), this just makes life easier, being able to go anywhere any day, it’s a bit more free and flexible.
So you can purchase a ticket which includes access to all Disney parks, all Universal parks, Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica. However, if you are planning to visit Discovery Cove then there is a better ticket option. You can get a ticket for Discovery Cove, with the Dolphin Swim, which also includes access to Seaworld and Aquatica for 14 days.. or an Ultimate Package which includes Busch Gardens too. Then you only need to get the Disney and Universal Combo ticket which allows you into all of their parks for 14 days. For us, this is always the best option!
Fast Passes, etc. Some things can be organised about 6 months before you trip, for example if you want to book Express Passes for Universal, Busch Gardens or Seaworld. Any extra attractions, such as the Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens, or reserved seating for shows at Seaworld, or special events at Disney, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Disney Dining Reservations also open 180 days in advanced, so if there is a specific Disney restaurant you want to eat at, or a character dining you definitely want to attend, then this will need to be booked 180 days in advanced to guarantee your booking!
Then really the last thing to thing about before your travel is your Disney fast passes. Believe me when I say you really don’t wanna waste those. So try and plan your Disney days at least so you can get the fast passes done. They open to people staying off Disney property 30 days in advanced (60 days if you’re in a Disney hotel), and you can book using the My Disney Experience app or online. Make sure prior to this day, you have already linked everyone’s tickets to your account, so you can make fast passes for everyone. And also be aware that if you are staying off property, you can only make the booking 30 days in advanced for each individual day… if you’re staying on property then you can make fast pass selections for your entire trip 60 days before your first day!
I’ve mentioned this in one of my posts before, but if I was choosing from a hotel or villa, I’d always choose a hotel. Many families love a villa, the space and having a pool to yourself, which don’t get me wrong, was nice. But I much enjoyed being in the mix of International Drive.. being able to walk to bars, restaurants and attractions. The area we were in with our villa was lovely, and we did have some complexes with restaurants and shops a short drive away, but it felt like we were a lot further away from the parks and spent a lot of time on the I4. It wasn’t easy to just pop anywhere, and I missed being in the busy hustle and bustle of International Drive.
There are a ton of hotels you can choose from on International Drive that are in a great location. But they also have some apartments that you can rent which can be like more of a villa feel, with maybe the amenities that you need (washing equipment etc) – so maybe this would be more beneficial.
Now obviously the other options are the hotels that are on park property. I have yet to experience this, but I will at some point stay in a Disney hotel. The others I’m honestly not to fussed about.
Rosen Inn International, International Drive
Both visits we have hired a car, and I would never go without doing this to be honest. I’m not a big public transport fan, especially if I am trying to be somewhere by a certain time etc. I like to be able to do things in my own time. But it is possible if you are unable to hire a car. I have friends that have used the trolley in International Drive, a lot of hotels have shuttle buses to certain parks, and Uber’s/taxis are an easy option too. If you are staying in a Disney hotel then maybe you wouldn’t want a car because they have many modes of transport to take you to the Disney parks, and you could use an Uber or taxi for the other parks, and the magical express which takes you to/from the airport looks amazing, but you can hire a car on Disney property too!
Our little hire car on our first visit
If you’re like us, pack fairly light and save space for all the stuff you’re going to buy! We always make a trip to the outlets at the beginning of a trip so we can wear new clothes and save space that way too. Then we normally pack an empty suitcase inside of our other one if possible, and pay for an extra suitcase each on the way home. Of course another option is to just buy another suitcase while you’re there if needed! There are plenty of suitcase outlets that have really cheap holdalls, etc.
Follow along tomorrow when I’m going to start speaking about my tips and tricks for specific parks!
Comment below if you have any questions! I’d be more than happy to answer them and help with anything you may need.
Speak soon… Rachel xo