Serving up an irresistible combo of good times and warm sunshine, Orlando is the perfect place for a family vacation. But with so much fun stuff to see and do near Disney, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are five tips to make sure your first trip to Orlando runs without a hitch!
Plan ahead – but don’t try to see it all!
Should you spend your whole vacation at Disney, visiting each of the different parks? Or should you focus on trying to see a few key attractions, with days off for shopping and water parks in between? There’s no right or wrong way to tackle a trip to Orlando, but whichever approach you decide to go for, it’s important to plan ahead.
Try to draw up a rough plan before you go, with the whole family’s ‘must-see’ attractions high up on the list. To make sure you have enough time (and cash!) for these, you might want to buy your attraction tickets in advance. It’s also a good idea to look at one of the many crowd calendars available online, so you can see which days tend to be busiest at each theme park.
Once you’ve ticked off the top sights, you can then work some of your second-choice attractions and activities into the time you have left. Walking around the theme parks and waiting in line can be surprisingly tiring, so it’s worth leaving some time over for chilling by the pool. You’ll be thankful for it when you come home feeling rested and relaxed!
Stay somewhere special
Not thrilled by the idea of staying at a dreary motel on International Drive? Well how about something completely different? The Disney area is packed with fun and unusual places to stay, including private villas that come with their own outdoor swimming pools.
At some of the best vacation rentals, like those offered by local experts Top Villas, you’ll have the chance to enjoy incredible private amenities. Guests can test their skills in zany game rooms, spend the night in beautiful themed bedrooms, and kick back in front of Hollywood blockbusters in their very own multi-seater movie theaters.
Staying at one of these high-end mansions isn’t just for the super rich; if you’re sharing with a few others, the per-person rates are often better than you’d get at a run-of-the-mill motel!
Get off the tourist trail
It’s famous for its tourist attractions, but you shouldn’t forget that Orlando is a living, breathing city. And there are loads of opportunities for getting off the tourist trail in and around the City Beautiful, without needing to break the bank.
Fans of golf will want to make a beeline for TopGolf Orlando, a local hangout that combines a high-tech driving range with an arcade, a restaurant and full-service bar. If you’re more into music and the arts, and you fancy getting a glimpse of Orlando’s creative underbelly, time your visit to coincide with the annual Immerse festival (mid October). Alternatively, for breweries, offbeat shops and independent restaurants, head to Downtown DeLand Historic District – it’s a 45-minute drive north of downtown Orlando.
Take a couple of day trips
To get a feel for Florida life beyond the theme parks, make time for a couple of day trips. If you base yourself near Disney and have your own vehicle, you’ll be within easy reach of some of the state’s best beaches and state parks. You’ll also be within striking distance of some quirky coastal towns, many of them perfect for surfing, seafood and sunset cocktails.
One of the best day trips you can make from Orlando is to the Blue Spring State Park, where you have the chance to go kayaking, snorkeling or tubing in the crystal clear springs. You might also spot some of the manatees that congregate here from November to mid-March. It’s around an hour’s drive northeast from the Magic Kingdom.
If you’re up for a longer excursion, try the 100-mile round trip to the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast. Time your trip just right and you might get the chance to meet a real astronaut – or even catch a rocket launch!
Pack carefully – but don’t bring too much!
The Sunshine State is usually warm and err… sunny, but sometimes it can rain. Even though these downpours tend to be short-lived (unless you arrive during hurricane season) it still pays to pack a poncho or two. These can also be handy if you’re planning to check out some splash rides but don’t fancy staying wet for an hour or two afterwards.
And just because it’s usually hot in the daytime, that doesn’t mean you might not get a little cold at night. This is especially true during the winter months, so pack a couple of sweaters just in case. Remember that you can bring too much, though! And who knows? Forgetting something might just give you the perfect excuse to check out some of the awesome outlets in Orlando…