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First visit to Orlando next year. Overwhelmed!

(51 Posts)
skippy67 Sat 31-Dec-16 18:20:29

Hi, we're going to Orlando in June next year. We're a family of 4, Dcs are 19 and 16. So far, we've only booked flights. We know we want to do Universal, and Kennedy space centre. Looking for suggestions ofor where to stay, and what else we can do. I've looked at dibb, but it all looks so complicated! We're there for 14 nights.
I like the idea of maybe 9 days in Orlando to do parks, shopping, then maybe a beach holiday for the rest. Would love to hear your suggestions or itineraries.

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movingagainwith2 Sat 31-Dec-16 21:54:28

Sounds like us! Although age of kids a bit different - 10 and 8. Planning on 3 nights at universal then about a week in a condo for Disney and then rest on the coast - with driving to Kennedy from the condo. So hard to plan as there is so much info out there. Feel like I am going to spend more time reading stuff than I will do on the holiday!

skippy67 Sun 01-Jan-17 11:33:29

Hopefully we'll get some suggestions!

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roseteapot101 Sun 01-Jan-17 11:47:40

i heard this is useful for disney holiday planning,i am planning to take my daughter when she is 7 or 8 was thinking thats a good age.I yet to research myself but i heard this website a good place to start

Groovee Sun 01-Jan-17 11:54:49

Where are you flying to/from?

mouldycheesefan Sun 01-Jan-17 13:14:27

The dibb is brilliant. If you are finding it baffling start your own thread you will get lots of advice.
Kennedy is only 50 mins drive from Orlando and is well worth doing you get to see real space whittle and rockets and meet a real astronaut.
We didn't do universal only Disney for 9 nights then a week in a quiet coastal resort.
Book restaurants in advance. Do dining plan if staying in Disney.

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Sun 01-Jan-17 13:19:04

We stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton Seaworld. It's close to international drive for the shops and restaurants, but also not too far from Disney and Universal. Kennedy Space Center is great, also Daytona Beach is a nice day out. Clearwater or St Petes, in the other direction, are stunning and relaxing.

QuandryQueen Sun 01-Jan-17 13:21:37

At that age I'd only do one Disney water park rather than the Magic Kingdom etc. Then Universal, for most of it! Good idea doing a couple of days on the beach.

If you stay on I drive then a day exploring that is also good in the middle.

woodhill Sun 01-Jan-17 13:22:43

Yes do the beach as well. St Pete's or treasure island are lovely but the accommodation is dearer.

I find Orlando quite tiring but there are loads of places to stay.

2gorgeousboys Sun 01-Jan-17 13:34:40

We went this summer with boys 21, 16 and 12. We did 3/4 days at Universal, a trip to Kennedy and a couple of days at each Disney park. The boys particularly loved Kennedy (and we'd definitely go back there) Universal for the roller coasters but also really enjoyed the Disney parks more than I thought.

Hollywood Studios was a hit with the Star Wars fireworks and shows and they loved Everest at Animal Kingdom.

We went in the summer and stayed in a villa in Kissimmee. There's no way I'd have wanted to share a hotel room with the boys! We enjoyed getting up to be at the parks for opening most days the heading back to the pool early afternoon before going back to the parks in the evening. Because of the boys ages they were able to stay up later so most of the time we were in the parks until closing.

It was a busy 2 weeks but we wanted to pack a lot in. I spent a lot of time on Dibb before we went and also bought the Brit's guide book and another one which showed the best routes around the parks. Both were really useful.

mytinselsinatangle Sun 01-Jan-17 13:41:16

I would advise maybe 3/4 days staying in a universal hotel then a villa for the remaining time to give you all more space.

If you stay in a universal hotel you also get express passes to help you beat the queues. You can walk back to your hotel or use the free boat service. You also have all the restaurants there too.

Are they keen on doing Disney? If you have been to DLP I would prob give MK and HS a miss as they are not that different really. Not sure they would be that fussed by Epcot tho I like it. AK is great, but might not appeal at that age. The tickets do include the water parks but you could just go to Aquatica.

Macarena1990 Sun 01-Jan-17 14:44:54

I would avoid Disney, particularly with children of your ages. I think it has gone downhill in the last few years and the Disney magic is sadly lacking. Plus it is now ridiculously expensive and the food is dire.

My children far preferred universal, as did we!

TheBlessedCheesemaker Sun 01-Jan-17 14:58:00

I'm with the guys saying don't bother with Disney. Universal and Kennedy will take up 4 days and then I'd probably head to the beach for the rest of the time.

Take mossies into consideration when choosing accommodation. The big hotels will use barrier treatment to reduce the problem, but villas are more exposed. Many villas now have mossie porches across their patios etc: not pretty but a good option to look for when booking.

dailyshite Sun 01-Jan-17 15:05:28

We stay near wet and wild, it's walking distance to Universal (even though the Americans we met thought we were mad for doing it) - 15 minutes - and they do free shuttles to Disney. Just off I-drive so lots of bars / restaurants.

Universal is loads better than Disney but the water parks are good and Epcot is good. Apparently Universal have a waterpark opening this year.

I never drive in America (too scared) and it has never affected our holiday (and worked out cheaper). Next time we go I'm going to do a shop and have more food in the apartment, after being out all day it's tiring and you don't always feel up to going out. Your kids are older than ours though so it might be less of an issue.

skippy67 Sun 01-Jan-17 21:47:01

Thanks for all your replies! The kids aren't bothered about Disney, so that's one decision made. Any recommendations on places to stay in Daytona or Clearwater? Or are there any other beach resorts we should consider. Dh loves driving in US, so we'lloyd be hiring a car. Thanks again.

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Groovee Sun 01-Jan-17 22:15:59

Cocoa Beach is near Kennedy Space Centre. My Dh loves that area for the beach x

mummymeister Mon 02-Jan-17 01:14:26

the best money we ever spent when planning a holiday was on 2 books WDW with kids and beyond WDW with kids. absolutely brilliant and a great place to start your planning.

HermioneWeasley Mon 02-Jan-17 19:45:57

If you stay at a universal hotel you get early park access to hogsmeade and diagon alley. If you stay in the pricier ones, you get universal express passes included as well.

You might want to consider a day at Epcot - they've got some really good rides.

You could easily spend 2 days at Kennedy space centre.

TheBlessedCheesemaker Mon 02-Jan-17 20:26:00

Excuse the long post, but this is a cut and paste of extracts from a blog piece I wrote recently, might help (warning: very biased views).
Things to bring
1) Bum bag to use in theme parks, instead of rucksack. Or get the blokes to wear shorts with button-down pockets on the sides for holding maps, phones, car keys. Phones in back pockets not a great idea because of the rides. Don't bring a rucksack to the parks - you will have to keep putting it in/out of lockers at loads of the rides at the parks, and each locker experience is akin to Oxford Circus tube in rush hour.
2) Lanyard for each person with see-through plastic credit card holder attached (you have to show express passes and fast cards on every ride and each person has to match their card to their thumbprint). You can buy them here instead of course, but $50 for four? no thanks.
3) Mossie spray. And also some household insect spray to use in hotel room at night
4) Bring your own teabags if you like a proper cup of tea. Hotels DO have teabags at breakfast, but they tend to be the poncy starbucky type affairs that need wringing out 3 times before you can even sniff a bit of tea. let alone taste anything. Oh, and get used to asking for the water to come boiling, not lukewarm, and insist on skim milk if that's your thing. You are going to pay a 20% tip so you may as well have them earn it.
Where to stay
If I had been better planned, I would have booked a night or two in either hard rock hotel or the adjacent Loewe hotel at Universal. Doing that means that you can do a magic hour 8-9am in Harry Potter world. This is big benefit because the express tickets can’t be used in HPW, and it is far and away the busiest themepark area in Orlando (Americans are nuts over HP). The two best rides in Orlando are in HPW (escape from gringots and forbidden journey) and had queues over an hour long by 9.30am, so those extra magic hours are priceless here. Other reason to stay in one of these two hotels is that you can walk to Universal easily or take free water taxi. Much better than driving, shuttle bussing or taking a cab (all of which dump you over a mile from the entrance, which is not so bad on way in, but hellish on way out when you’ve been walking for 9 hours solid).
When booking hotel, ring and check what size their ‘doubles’ are. We were quite shocked. Everywhere else in USA has proper doubles, but not Orlando. In our first hotel there was no way two people could have slept in the double beds (two normal pillows couldn’t fit side by side), and second hotel was not much better – miles smaller than what we’d call a double. King bed + sofa bed is a much better alternative if you have 4 people staying in one room (but if you go for that make sure you check the floorplan on the hotel website).
They pretend this is two parks but that’s only to bump up the ticket prices because no way will kids accept doing only ‘half’ of harry potter (hogsmead is in one park, Diagon alley in the other, linked by the hogwart express ride). Price of express tickets varies depending on how busy it is, we paid around $70 a day per person. If you wanted to save money then you could just do all the really popular rides on one day with express, and then do the other days without express to see the shows/go on the less popular rides/mooch round diagon alley with interactive wands. Without express passes, most rides seemed to have 45-60 minute queues.
Best rides here? All of em. They are all great (except maybe ET that was really old and tame). Men in Black has some serious spinning that made me want to vomit, but that was just me. Kids loved them and DH and I were just blown away by the technology on all the rides - way better than I have ever experienced before. Don’t youtube them in advance as that will spoil the fun. Suffice to say that you will get splashed with water, one ride has real flames licking around you, and they use smells on some of the rides, too. The Mummy, Minions, Transformers, Simpsons, Shrek, King Kong, Spiderman, the Harry Potter rides - all fab. We didn’t do the three big water rides here because our guide warned us that there is a 50% chance of getting drenched (and we certainly saw people soaked through). Apparently if you want to do these, the advice is to bring spare dry clothes and use a locker for the day.
Harry Potter is miles better than UK experience, and my two spent hours here, walking round the shops and doing the rides. You can buy interactive wands that you then use to make things ‘happen’ at certain places (example: wave it at a shop window and the window display starts moving round revealing stuff). Good ruse by the organisers to get adults to spend $50 per kid on a piece of plastic - definitely not recommended.
Cirque du Soleil
Fab show. Well worth the money. All seats are good so buy the cheapest. Book dinner in Morimoto for straight after - about the only really good and properly grown up food in Orlando (steakhouse in the four seasons is a close second when it comes to good food, but that's nowhere near Cirque)
Kennedy Space Centre
It’s quite a drive – took us an hour – but worth it. And then some. Most amazing place I have been to in the States. Kids were less awed than DH and I but I guess it’s a generation thing. The minute you walk into the park you are confronted with an amazing sight. Then they have two main exhibitions, both of which require you to sit through 15 minutes of talk/film which I thought would be shit but aren’t. I almost cried 3 separate times during the trip, and then I did lose it at the exit of one of the exhibits, when you walk through the Challenger remembrance hall. I’ve done a fair few places in the States, and seen some great stuff. This place beats them all by a mile (just don’t expect the kids to ‘get it’). Tip for the Atlantis bit – when you are ushered into the second hall, try to get to the front and have your camera ready, it is the best photo opportunity you will get in Orlando.
Food. Unless you are a fan of fast food, it is beyond shit. Every hotel will say they have 8 or so eating options. Not really. Remove the breakfast bar, the poolside bar and the lunchtime only options, and you end up with two hotel dining options at night - ‘high end’ or ‘friendly southern fare’. At this stage it's up to you whether you choose expensive shit or cheap shit. Look out for Subways and Starbucks instead, and bear in mind that the parks do actually have some decent food options (Epcot has a great Italian - via Napoli -, and the Teppan Edo is also good. Universal has Emirils which was OK).
Walking: You can easily walk for 8-10 hours in a single day, with only very brief 5 minute rests when on the rides themselves. Flip flops and fit flops turned out to be very bad ideas when it came to theme parks, and even sketchers didn’t cut it. Socks and proper trainers were the only way to go. I struggle to believe that I am seriously recommending bum bags, socks and trainers in one blog: but, hey - if I had my style hat on then I wouldn't be in Orlando in the first place.
Outlet centres: don’t bother. See previous tip. The fashion police have yet to step foot here. Outlets are good for bum bags and trainers, however.

Levatrice Mon 02-Jan-17 21:16:45

grin ^ best post ive ever read on orlando!! Ive not even been but like to have a realistic view of places i want to go!!

HermioneWeasley Mon 02-Jan-17 21:29:10

cheesemaker that is all awesome advice.

Disagree re sketchers though - only shoes I'll wear in the parks!

I would add ponchos to the list of things to take. They fold up small and you never know when there's going to be a downpour. Also useful for water rides.

Awks Mon 02-Jan-17 21:40:32

We're going again at Easter and they do make a bit of a meal of it on DIBB imho (generalisation alert)

As long as you get your head round getting up early and getting to parks at rope drop before the hordes you will be fine. Book all your fastpasses even if you think you wont use them and just take breaks and go back to your pool in the afternoon.

I disagree re ponchos, you'll look like the village idiots and in August, when it rains its biblical and ponchos really don't help grin though that's hilarious in itself.

We've stayed at St Pete each too at postcard inn and it was just beautiful.

Ginorchoc Mon 02-Jan-17 21:45:16

Florida Dolphin Tiurs Di so good trips and reasonable prices, the airboat trip was amusing.

Ginorchoc Mon 02-Jan-17 21:45:39

* Dolphin tours do

skippy67 Tue 03-Jan-17 13:20:24

Thanks everyone! Especially cheese. Was it the Lowes Pacific you looked at? Has anyone stayed there?

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