Last year, with about two week’s notice, we were invited to fly to Orlando to spend time at Universal Resorts for 3 days. We had little time to prep, but it gave us a taste for Orlando and I would love to go back and experience more. I would definitely revisit Universal, I would like to see bits of Disneyland, the nearby beaches and national parks, experience more variety of food and take in the less obvious tourist attractions too. I would like to stay longer too!
Are planning or considering a trip to Orlando? Today I am collaborating with Travel Planners, who offer all-inclusive package holidays mainly to the US, and specialise in Florida and California. Here is the prep I would do if I went back again:
Get clothing/costume sorted
This is the place to wear your t shirts with your favourite characters, your Harry Potter costume, or your Mickey mouse ears. Much of it you can buy there, but Orlando is definitely the place to sport any pre existing character affiliations you may own. It’s the place to wear shorts and funky tees, sunnies and supportive shoes, you will do a lot of walking!
Decide on theme park priorities
Research the parks, find the characters/areas/films that really interest you and make a plan, it is impossible to do everything, so it is best to prioritise. Enjoying a couple of bits throughly is better than running round all day with FOMO (fear of missing out). For me, at Universal it was all about Harry Potter, and both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios parks have incredible Harry Potter worlds, linked by Hogwarts of course!
Although, you might surprise yourselves, we found October half term a great time to visit, as Amercian schools haven’t got holiday, so it is quieter and you can get round more. At the start and end of the day the Harry Potter area was much quieter. We were super lucky too and Universal supplied us with a VIP guide, this isn’t cheap, but there are various options to cut the queues, so it is worth researching these before you go.
Watch some movies
My son loves watching movies with dogs in, much of Beethoven is set at Universal Studios, in the Animal Actor’s area. It’s a great film to introduce children to the idea of the film set concept of the park. You could also revisit films from the rides you want to visit. On the Universal side – Simpsons, Transformers, Minions, The Mummy, Jurassic Park, Men In Black…and Harry Potter is a must if they are old enough. I especially wished we had introduced our kids to ET before going on the ride as it was so beautiful!
On the Disney side, as well as the whole catalogue of Disney films, there are sing along and camp out at DisneyWorld DVDs to prep with.
Combine with a cruise
Travel Planners specialise in all inclusive Orlando trips, and their Orlando offers include villas, but also offer combining a cruise with Orlando, on the very ship we were funnest family on board a few years back – Carnival Sunshine. We absolutely loved our Carnival cruises in the Med and Caribbean, I can’t imagine how excited the kids would have been if we had tagged on Orlando too!
Seek out the less well known sights
Orlando is jam packed with things to do. We would have loved to have time for the Kennedy Space Centre, just 45 minutes East of Orlando. You can explore iconic NASA landmarks or take a tour of the Launch Control Center to get a behind-the-scenes look. For a different theme park, cool off at Wet’n Wild Water Park. Top of my list would be to explore the Everglades in an airboat, you can hunt for alligators, birds, and turtles along the way at Boggy Creek.
Reach the coast or the national parks
In an hour you can be at the coast, at Daytona beach, enjoying watersports or sea air and sunsets, far away from the excitement and stimulation of the theme parks. Ocala National Forest is a 90 minute drive and at 608 square miles is the world’s largest pine scrub forest. That’s a serious amount of forest bathing and happiness right there! There are even recreational springs where the water is a constant 72°F and extraordinarily clear. One of them shares our surname, so I’m heading for Alexander Springs.
Plan to eat
People joke in forums about dieting before travelling to Orlando, it might be worth leaving some room! I did indulge in some (veggie) burgers and fries and we were defeated by a Freak Shake in the Toothsome Emporium at Universal. If I returned I would like to seek out more restaurants, as Orlando has it all, from Steakhouse to Sushi, Italian to Indian, whole foods to junk foods, family dining with entertainment, breakfast cafes and fine dining.
Leave space in your case
There are lots of malls and shopping opportunities, so leave some room! Amanda at We Blog Travel has a post on making the most of shopping in Orlando.
Thanks to Travel Planners for collaborating on this post.
Have you been to Orlando or are you planning to go? What would your top Orlando planning tips be?