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Florida-first trip

(27 Posts)
G00FY Mon 29-Aug-16 12:28:24

Hello, I'm new to MN's! And I really need some help!!
I'm traveling to Florida alone with my DD (who will be 8!)
I've saved for four years to make this a trip of a lifetime! Although now I'm starting to panic a bit. We're staying on-site at Disney & that will be our main priority-to see & do all things Disney!!
Can anyone offer any tips? Especially because it's just the two of us! Any essentials I need to take? Any shows or attractions that we must do?
She's not into Frozen (much to my dismay) she loves the Jungle Book & the Lion King!
I've got some of our ADR's I upgraded to the Disney Dining Package (where we have one sit down meal a day) I have booked a couple of character meals & regrettably I haven't been able to secure a reservation at Be Our Guest!
I'd like to go swimming with dolphins & horse riding. Any suggestions?
Thanks in advance. I look forward to hearing about your own experiences & advice smile

OP’s posts: |
2014newme Mon 29-Aug-16 16:36:04

Join the dibb for great Disney advice and read the threads in the long haul section on mumsnet about Disney.
Your dd would like animal Kingdom, the lion king show is very good.
Book fast passes as soon as you can

OllyBJolly Mon 29-Aug-16 17:20:34

Second The Dibb. People are extraordinarily helpful.

We had a lovely day here You and DD can swim with dolphins here

I went to Florida on my own with my 2 DDs when they were 6 and 4. We had a great time.

NicknameUsed Tue 30-Aug-16 10:07:18

We went at the end of July, so probably the main school holiday season, and found that we could leave booking fast passes to the day we went into the park. It helps that neither of us likes the white knuckle rides anyway.

I hate having to meticulously plan holidays ahead and much prefer to be spontaneous about what we do each day.

You can book your fast passes online and just not turn up though, so it doesn't necessarily tie you to going to a particular place on a particular day.

Will you be hiring a car?

christmasmum Wed 31-Aug-16 14:52:30

I went this year and had an amazing time. Didn't really expect to enjoy it that much, more for the kids than me, but surprised myself by absolutely loving it! The best thing we did was to book one night in a Universal Hotel as well as Disney. You get the fast pass included on both days (day check in and day check out) so you get to the front of the line on every ride (not some Harry Potter ones) and the extra hour at HP early on in the day. It was such a different theme park and the rides were great, lots of cool video techniques etc.

Also, get a 'First Time Visitor' badge from any of the Disney shops and she'll get lots of high fives off the staff and cast members which my kids loved!

G00FY Thu 01-Sep-16 08:35:24

Oooh thanks for the replies! I'm glad I won't need to book the rides as well as the ADR's. I've still got a few days unbooked confused I'm struggling to find places... I have no idea where the restaurants are located in the parks & I'm worried I won't be able to find them!
I've opted out of the included car hire so we'll be relying on Disney transport & probably taxi's to get us out of the resort. I do intend on hitting the shops! The thought of driving in America fills me with dread! I may be ok if I had another adult with me to co-pilot lol!!
I could only find discovery cove too, I'm not sure if I could justify that amount when we're only interested in the dolphin swim, but I might regret it if I don't.
I'll be celebrating my birthday whilst we're there too & the trip will be for DD's birthday ( she doesn't know we're going yet!) I think we can get birthday pins too smile
I've booked Animal Kingdom for our first full day, I thought it'd be a good way to ease us in. Magic Kingdom is planned for day 2 and day 3 is a rest/shop/swim day! I thought I'd plan an early night day, a full on and late night day then a rest day for our entire trip! I think I might need to add a universal in too?! I was going to skip universal & concentrate just on Disney

OP’s posts: |
NicknameUsed Thu 01-Sep-16 08:51:11

If your DD is a Harry Potter fan you have to do Universal/Islands of Adventure. Although I'm not sure how you would get there without a car.

I drove without any problems because the car came with a satnav. I would have struggled without one as DD is crap at map reading.

mummymeister Thu 01-Sep-16 10:46:26

buy the books wdw with kids and beyond wdw with kids. they are an absolute must and I have recommended them to so many family and friends who have found the same things.

they have touring plans in them and really helpful advice.

G00FY Fri 02-Sep-16 21:37:08

Ill check out the guide books! I didn't actually think to get a book confused I've been looking at hints & tips online & im now completely overwhelmed with it all!!
I took my DD to a 'tame' theme park yesterday & she told me she didn't want to go on the fast roller coaster (it's not that fast & there's one loop!) she'd been on it many times before, but this was the first time she told me she didn't like it!! Am I right in thinking that Universal has more fast/high rides? And Magic Kingdom are more tame? I think she'd be in her element watching parades & meeting the characters tbh. She had nightmares after watching HP 3...

OP’s posts: |
Hulababy Fri 02-Sep-16 21:46:40

Come and join this thread:

Lots of WDW and Orlando talk and advice.

The two US parks do have a lot of thrill rides. However, in more recent years there are many rides and attractions for those who are less keen on the thrill rides, inc good water play areas, and areas/rides aimed at children. There is even a parade now.

Magic Kingdom, and all the Disney parks really are tamer. But they do have their share of thrills too.

Are you going in school holidays? If so, my experience has been that there are key rides where you really do need to consider FP+ unless you are happy to have longer waits. If staying at a Disney resort you can book them 60 days in advance. If your plans changed you can try to swap them or cancel them. You can also use FP for character meets, shows and parade reservation spots. It is definitely worth being organised and planned ime. You need the My Disney Experience website (and app for when there.)

KitKat1985 Sat 03-Sep-16 12:45:12

If you are mainly in the Disney parks and in a Disney hotel, then you may be able to get away with not driving as there are shuttle buses between all the hotels and parks. Be aware though that Orlando is a big area so taxis for days out will get a bit expensive.

For a non-Disney restaurant for one day your 8-year old will enjoy the rainforest café I'm sure.

The Universal park rides are more aimed at teenagers / adults in my mind, although if your 8-year old loves Harry Potter she would probably love to go to Harry Potter world. There are lots of shows to enjoy there though.

My advice will be to remember that a lot of the parks are huge and walking round every day will get tiring, so definitely have a few more chilled days planned as well as theme park days, or you will both get exhausted.

NicknameUsed Sat 03-Sep-16 19:07:15

We ate at the Rainforest Cafe and the food was really, really good. What we didn't enjoy was the noise. The place is huge and when it is full the decibel level is pretty high. Added to that you have the "tropical storms" every few minutes. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone with sensory issues.

Groovee Sat 03-Sep-16 19:23:53 is a great site for menus and restaurants x

Oblomov16 Sat 03-Sep-16 19:33:54

Would your dd not prefer universal to Disney parks? I suspect my ds2 will. I'm just starting to plan out trip now.

G00FY Mon 12-Sep-16 22:43:05

Thanks everyone!! I'm currently awaiting the arrival of my guide book grin
We're going in November, not school holidays, I think we'll miss the hallowe'en celebrations, but we'll see the Christmas decorations!

I've checked Uber & a cab to Discovery Cove from our hotel is $20. I intend on finding some shops too (any ideas?)

My major concern now is that I have about 8 unbooked dinner reservations that I need to book. I'm lost. I'm hoping that there will be some we can walk in or am I being too optimistic?
I've booked the rainforest, coral reef & mama Melrose (I can't remember the others!) I've got my Disney experience just not the app (yet!)

OP’s posts: |
NicknameUsed Tue 13-Sep-16 23:04:57

Will this be your first visit to the US?
You will need to budget for taxes and tips as well.

G00FY Thu 15-Sep-16 14:46:06

It is my first (and probably only) trip to America!
I have a daily budget for tips, extra drinks & additional food we may require. I also have an amount for souvenirs & the shopping spree grin
My guide book arrived today so I'm more clued up about where things are & how to get from one destination to another via Disney transport.
Do UK visitors get a magic band?

OP’s posts: |
AlbusPercival Thu 15-Sep-16 15:00:49

mYou need the app! It makes it all make sense, and gives you directions, queue lengths etc. I start looking at queue lengths before I go to see where has giant queues.

Keep looking at Be Our Guest as it does have reservations. I also really like the Mexican restaurant in the Mexican pyramid at Epcot.

If you look on trip advisor there are reviews for all of the restaurants

abeandhalo Thu 15-Sep-16 15:39:26

My family go to Florida every few years and we take our planning very seriously! Yes, UK visitors get magic bands, but you pick them up when you check in at the hotel.

My advice for Disney:
- take advantage of extra magic hours so you can get on the rides you want
- go for a sleep in the afternoon so you can stay up late for fireworks, etc
- book your fast passes in advance before you
- use Disney transport, you really won't need a car unless going out of Disney
- take advantage of the My Disney Experience app
- don't miss the water parks, they are both fantastic
- use your Magic band to get purchases sent back to your room after shopping (I think they still do that)
- tip your hotel cleaners well on the first day (it will be worth it, especially if your daughter leaves any soft toys lying around during the day!)
- In fact, use your Magic band for everything. You don't even need to take a handbag anywhere, it's wonderful
- you can get free cups of water from any quick service dining area

I really, really would recommend getting PhotoPass+ if it's just the two of you, so that you can get lots of photos together. You won't regret it. There are photographers all over the parks, including the water parks, and you also get all of the on-ride photographs, too, they are just magically uploaded on your Disney log in / app.

If she loves Lion King, you must do the Lion King musical show at Animal Kingdom!

I think Universal is very expensive for what it is, if you've already paid for Disney I don't think I'd bother (unless you are a massive Harry Potter fan). There is plenty of Disney stuff to do, you won't get bored!

If you would like to go shopping outside of Disney, the Florida Mall I think is the most varied. The Millenia Mall is quite designer-y if memory served, and if you would like something a bit different the Artegon Market Place is like an arty, independent place.

I will probably think of more things, like I said I take my Disney holidays v seriously haha.

FreckledLeopard Thu 15-Sep-16 15:56:57

Orlando and Disney are wonderful but PLEASE, PLEASE don't support Discovery Cove and swim with dolphins. They're amazing creatures in the wild (and you can see them in the wild if you take a trip to Clearwater/St Pete's beach). But making such intelligent animals suffer for tourists is really awful.

We've been to Florida a number of times and they are some wonderful things to do, but please do re-consider Discovery Cove and Sea World.

Here's a link to a bit more information:

MerylPeril Thu 15-Sep-16 15:59:04

Restaurants are easy to find - there are great maps at the entrance to each park

We are eating at Be Our Guest for lunch next time (quick service but you still have to book)

I would recommend the sci fi diner in Hollywood for dinner too and have you booked any character meals - we really enjoyed Tuskers House for breakfast with Mickey etc

But if you want to talk restaurants let me know I love it

Do fast pass for rides like the Toy Story ones - a nightmare without!

Tralala33 Thu 15-Sep-16 16:11:40

You can eat in the hotel restaurants as well, some are great. The one in the Animal Kingdom Hotel is a nice restaurant. Definitely go to the DIBB website to help with planning.

NicknameUsed Thu 15-Sep-16 16:14:19

"You don't even need to take a handbag anywhere, it's wonderful"

What about sunglasses, suncream, tissues, phone/camera, water bottle, other sundries?

"I think Universal is very expensive for what it is"

It depends on what you like. DD (16) is a massive Harry Potter fan, and as we were staying near Universal we went back several times. The HP themed attractions are absolutely amazing.

She loved the Magic Kingdom and Universal/Islands of Adventure best, followed by Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Hollywood Studios was OK. We didn't do the water parks. Neither of us is the least bit interested in them, and I can't see without my glasses anyway.

Orlando wasn't on my bucket list, but it was a combination of a 16th birthday present and post GCSE reward for DD.

Having done this holiday I am happy not to go again. I enjoyed it but once was enough. I really don't understand the appeal of repeating this type of holiday year after year.

abeandhalo Thu 15-Sep-16 17:21:36

I mean, I wear prescription glasses so sunglasses on permanently, free napkins and water everywhere, PhotoPass+ so you don't need camera / phone, and I guess I just apply suncream in the morning then again when I go back to the hotel after lunch.

Disney is the only place in the world where I don't even need to carry around a key b/c your room key is on your wrist, I guess I just like to make the most if it!

I definitely think for Harry Potter fans Universal is worth it, but like I said for me, if you've already got Disney tickets for the entire time, I personally wouldn't spend my money on Universal unless for HP.

Tralala is right there are some cracking hotel restaurants, some with character dining.

Hulababy Thu 15-Sep-16 17:47:01

Do UK visitors get a magic band?

If staying in a Disney hotel you get a Magic Band when you arrive.

Or you can buy one over there and link it to your tickets once there - the people at the shops/counters you buy them at will do it - takes a minute or two max.

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