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Florida planning -advice needed!

(13 Posts)
loopyluna Fri 11-Jan-13 12:10:33

From the other thread on disney, I've gathered we have some Orlando experts on board...
We're planning a trip in April. DH, 3 DC (13, 11 and 7.) v excited but getting a massive headache trying to decide where to stay and what park tickets to choose.

Please help!

1. Hotel with breakfast OR self catering complex OR villa?
2. On site/ central/ further out?

We will def get a car as plan on driving to the coast and meeting up with friends at some point.
Big kids want Harry Potter world. 7 year old wants Disney (of course!)
I have arthritis so not up to tooo much trekking about unfortunately.

Budget healthy but not too crazy. Any tips on saving pennies welcome...

AttilaTheMeerkat Fri 11-Jan-13 14:23:37

April this year or next?.

What would you like ideally in terms of accommodation?.

Many US hotels only do room only; breakfast is not included. Five of you in one room may be somewhat cramped; you may want to look at interconnecting rooms. Suite based hotels like the Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites do offer a self service buffet breakfast with both hot and cold breakfast items. Worth looking at as price per night is reasonable.

Harry Potter World is located at Universal Studios in their park called "Islands of Adventure". There are some good rides in it; but it is a fair distance from the entrance to that part of the park. You should be able to hire a mobility scooter from them if mobility is an issue.

What is also going to be the big expense (apart from the park prices as your two eldest children will be charged adult priced admission for all the parks) is the flight cost. Children are charged adult fares from age 11 up. Only BA and Virgin fly direct into Orlando; Thomas Cook uses Sanford which is about an hour further east.

Do not forget to complete the ESTA online for all of you travelling to the US; no ESTA = no travel. Only use the official US government website; the cost that should be paid is $14 US (around £9 sterling) per application.

MOSagain Fri 11-Jan-13 18:27:47

I'd recommend a private villa as opposed to a hotel as you have your own space, peace and quiet and will work out much cheaper with regards to food as you can make your own lunches to take out with you to parks etc and cook in the villa or get takeaways which will be far cheaper than eating out everynight.

Have a look at a company based in Kissimmee which is owned by an english lady who only manages villas with private pools within 4 miles of Disney.

Or alternatively, have a look at a 4 bedroom villa with private pool a few miles from Disney. Owner gives discount to Mumsnetters.

Ref flights, we usually go BA to Orlando but last year saved £1,200 (for 6 of us) by flying to Tampa which was only an extra 20 minute drive.

If you are thinking of this easter you will need to book quickly, most people book 11 months in advance.

If you don't want to do too many park days I'd recommend Magic Kingdom for the youngest and Islands of Adventure (where HP is) for the older ones.

Primrose123 Fri 11-Jan-13 18:35:34

Villas are great, lots of space, and more economical for a large group. However, you will have to shop and/or eat out.

We've stayed in a Disney hotel and prefer it. You can get great offers on the Disney dining plan, free at certain times of the year including school holidays. You also get free parking at the parks, and the monorail is great if you're staying in one of the monorail hotels.

There's lots of advice on these websites:

Grannylipstick Fri 11-Jan-13 21:12:32

Definitely a villa. They are much more suitable for families. Lots of facilities inc your own pool lots of bathrooms washing machine and tumble drier. We love the parks, it's the reason we go. We plan them with military precision and in 4 trips there we have onlyonce ever queued when we got muddled up with one of the rides in the magic kingdom. Pretty good going when you look around at the queues of around 2 hours for most rides around lunch time when people are just arriving. You need to arrive with your plan at opening. We did Harry potter last year but booked a hotel stay in one of the universal studio hotels. You book in around 8am (I know it's Early but certainly worth it). They store your luggage for the day and give you fast passes for the universal parks. Return any time after 2 and your room is ready. You then get to keep the fast passes for the next day also. It's brilliant. Definitely worth the money, the cost of the hotel for us (6 of us plus a 12 month old) was a very cheap way of getting fast passes to all of the rides. It also allowed early entry into Harry potter land. If you don't go early with a plan you will spend most if your time in a queue. The villas we have stayed in have all been of a good standard. Have fun. Can give you loads of tips if you want them

loopyluna Sat 12-Jan-13 09:10:57

All great ideas, thanks.
It is for April this year -we have passports, ESTAs and international driving license ready and time off work booked. Is there a reason why it needs 11 months to book?

Anyway, will get onto it this weekend.
Think a universal hotel for a couple of days and then a villa to chill out, could be a good combo...

Exciting grin

mankyscotslass Sat 12-Jan-13 09:15:07

I think the reason for the 11 month suggestion is the flights - they usually come out 11 mths ahead and get booked VERY quickly. You may struggle to get flights for this April now, or find that they are prohibitively expensive.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 12-Jan-13 09:22:54

What mankyscotslass said. This is why I asked this April or the next.

You may well have left it too late re flights because the direct flights to Orlando tend to fill as as soon as these become available around a year in advance. Also some schools get the first two weeks of April off regardless of when Easter falls.

You may now have to go to FL indirectly (another alternative is to look at BA's service into Tampa). Whatever you do its going to cost more.

MOSagain Sat 12-Jan-13 09:24:10

Yes, as manky has said, they do get booked very quickly. Whenever we go at Easter we book as soon as they are released as unlike most other destinations, the price goes up nearer the time of departure. You might find now there is not much availability for the dates you want. Friends going this Easter booked their flights last July.

If you can't find flights, worth looking at Tampa, they tend to have more availability and as I said in an earlier post, tend to be cheaper.

loopyluna Sat 12-Jan-13 09:32:50

There are a lot of flights on the expedia website. I've just done a quick search on next January to compare and prices are more or less the same.
I tried Tampa too to compare but works out more (via expedia), unless we book a hotel in Tampa too!

Anyway, must get on, I'll need a holiday after all this exhausting planning process!

lovetoski Sat 12-Jan-13 14:10:45

We stayed at the floridays resort on international drive. They have 3 bedroom suites with a great kitchen area. There is a supermarket next door. Loads of places to eat near by. Nice pool area, little shop and cafe. Transfers to the parks if wanted. Bus to sea world, aquatica right outside. Don't think I would stay at Disney if we ever went back but each to their own. I loved planning our trip.

Happypiglet Sat 12-Jan-13 14:28:09

We stayed on site in October for eight nights. If you stay on site you can currently get free Disney dining plan, 14 day park tickets for price of seven and $100 free spending dosh! They e mailed me yesterday.
These park tickets allow you in any park on any day and more than one park a day. Really flexible. Not sure how cost compares to buying individual tickets for the days you want to be at Disney tho.
whether you stay on or off site book any character meals as soon as you can- the bookings open 180 days before. They are truly magical and my dc loved them the most. Character breakfasts are great fun. We did cafe cape may three times (as it was included in free dining plan) food was great buffet style catering for all tastes with Minnie, Donald and Goofy! Also good was Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom with Pooh and friends and Garden Grill in Epcot with Micky, Pluto and Chip n Dale! Cinderellas castle at magic kingdom was a hit with DD, 6 but it felt like having breakfast on a conveyor belt! Food was not as good either. But if you oly plan to go once the princesses are really a must do!
You must have a plan and get there at park opening. The Unofficial Guide to Disney World (which also covers Universal) is an excellent book. It offers touring guides but my tip is to pick your must do ride and head straight there at opening.
We want to go back in 2014 when the extension to Magic Kingdom opens!

LadyEdith Sat 12-Jan-13 15:22:20

We stayed in a 4 bedroom villa villa at the Higlands Reserve complex, with is on Hwy 27 to the west of Orlando and about 15 miles from Disney. Our dc are a similar age and the villa was absolutely brilliant. It was a joy to return to every day. So much space, including darts and pool table in the garage and about 7 TVs, and 2 bathrooms. And, highlight of holiday for me blush a fantastic washing machine and tumble dryer - both huge - a great bonus with dc and you can ease up on packing too much stuff. Very easy to get everywhere, near to lots of all you can eat buffets, very economical e.g. Sizzler, Ponderosa, and also near a lovely Publix supermarket and a not so nice, but much cheaper, vast Walmart.

I can really recommend this travel agent, which was about the same price as doing it independently but you get ATOL protection etc

Agree that the Unofficial Guide to DW is great and also we had a book called Disney with kids or similar by Frommer's - have lent it to a friend and can't remember exact title.

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