Monday 19 August 2013

Florida Disney, Universal and beyond - The Big Trip - 16th to 30th August 2013

Well we finally bit the bullet.  This year we decided to do the Florida "thing".   We couldn't really afford it when we booked back in January, but as Chris rightly said, "once the flights are booked we'll find a way". Jasper is 9 and Scarlett is 5 so we reckoned good ages, also the fact that some of the parks considered an adult to be 10yrs old kind of forced our arm!

Anyhoo, we are here now and I'm typing this sat by the pool, 7pm at night, whilst the kids splash about in the pool!  We chose a Villa over a hotel as we are Villa owners and it suits our lifestyle.  Although on holiday I still like to cook and make packed lunches and fill the slow cooker for the evenings after a long day out.   We will eat out occasionally but this suits us.  The Villa we chose is enormous, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, huuuuge lounge and kitchen, just amazing.   It cost £921 for the 2 weeks, which isn't cheap, but compared to our Villa in Crete, it's very reasonable!   Location is great for all the parks too, plus the local Walmart (standard), and a local Bar, which we've yet to try out.  I've found a lovely bottle of white for $3.97, I am seriously a cheap date!  You can see details of the Villa here.

Scroll down for tips for before and during your trip?   But see here for individual reviews of where we visited.

Universal Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios
Disney's Magic Kingdom
Disney's Epcot
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Typhoon Lagoon (water park)
Seaworld's Aquatica (water park)
Kennedy Space Centre (NASA)

There aren't that many toll roads but there is one very near to the airport.  Having been here 10 days we've passed about 6.  If you are hiring a car you can ask for tolls to be included.  For around $15 you can avoid the tolls and have them added to your debit/credit card.  We opted for this and been very stress free!
Travelling with Little Ones to Parks
If you have children of different ages, you may not be able to ride all of the rides together.   They are set up beautifully for this here and have Child Swap Rooms.  You travel the line until you are almost on, and then you see the room.  You then go on with the child able to ride whilst the parent and other child wait until they are done.  The waiting parent then walks straight on.  Some of the rooms are quite soulless so you may want to weigh up using this option or the second parent using the single rider queue instead (we used both)
In Disney parks there is free WiFi under "Disney Guest" (except Typhoon Lagoon which was a bit patchy but it is the oldest park)!  In Universal there isn't any free WiFi, though I noticed today you could sign up for 30 mins for $5 but I could get over it to be honest!

If you have little ones, and want to treat them to a few extras, book them well in advance, as you won't be able to whilst out there, or rather is unlikely and not worth the disappointment!
Princess Tips
For our little Princess we booked a makeover, details here!  We had the Crown Package for $60 and it well worth it!
Astronaut Tips
For Jasper we pre-booked lunch with an Astronaut at Kennedy Space Centre.  Details here!
Dinner and Fireworks Tips
If you want to stay for dinner at the parks before watching the fireworks, make you reservations before you go too!   We've tried to get a reservation here and they are all fully booked!
Fastpass Tips
At Universal you have to pay for their fastpass option, however at Disney they are FREE!  You can only get one at a time, and most of the big, popular rides have a fast pass option.   You simply put in your ticket and prints you a fast pass with a time that you then go back to the ride and go in the fast pass lane.  It gives you an hour timeslot so it works very well.
Be sure to make a note of where you are parked, or better still take a pic on your phone, it is all to easy to be eager to get going, then later on forget where the car is!
Shopping Tips
We went to an outlet place today and bought some Timberland boots and some Converse for Scarlett and I. Checked at Information in the food court about Boggy Creek (no deals), found a card for 15% discount at Timberland if you spend over $79.99!!!   We'd spent $160!  I was all for going back, refunding and re-buying but Chris's morals said no.  Have since found out that they would have been happy to accommodate us.  So "moral of the story" check around for discount coupons, and/or go to Tourist Information to check. At the Premium Outlet Mall in Orlando this was in the Food Court.

beware of the car hire jockies!
We had pre-booked car hire through Flight Centre, but due to previous experiences of car hire depots in America I was on high alert, and so I should have been!   Although we knew we had the right car booked, they still tried to up-sell us bigger cars, warning that the one we'd booked wouldn't hold our luggage (utter garbage) and trying to up-sell a vehicle with built in sat nav, not necessary.   Oh and of course saying we hadn't enough insurance!!!!   The happy fellow we first met at Alamo turned into grumpy surly git when we insisted on picking up what we paid for.  We ended up with a huuuuge Chrysler which would have fitted our luggage if doubled!  Little note Alamo - never again!!!!!

Having been back a few weeks, I am missing Florida so much.   We have pretty much decided that we will definitely go back, but next time take a week out somewhere else first, Naples, The Keys?  Then a week at the parks, possibly excluding Disney?   We are happy we did everything we did, but could save a lot of money next time.

So much for a trip of a lifetime #hooked!

Annie x


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