1. Plan what you want to do in advance
This is not the kind of holiday you can take in a freewheeling, make-it-up-as-you-go-along kind of way. The amount and complexity of attractions make it essential to know what you want to do before you set out, including having, at the least, a rough day-by-day plan while you are there. Most importantly, all the info in Expert View is designed to help you with your own itinerary planning.
The Brit Guide to Orlando offers a unique Touring Plan service which is ideal for getting the most out of your holiday.
2. Buy your attraction tickets in advance
You really will save time and money if you have all your theme park tickets before you arrive. Not only do you by-pass all the queues at the ticket kiosks, you benefit from tickets designed purely for the UK visitor, like the 14 and 21-Day Disney Ultimate tickets, with built-in savings, and will be able to schedule those all-important FastPass+ times (up to 60 days in advance if you’re staying onsite at a Disney resort, or 30 days in advance if you’re staying offsite). Once you have purchased your tickets you need not worry about the parks raising prices (which happens at least once a year). There are also a plethora of unofficial ticket sources throughout Orlando, and these often fool the unwary, while there are rogue websites which are neither secure nor reliable.
3. Multi-day and combo tickets are much better value than single-day tickets
If you’re visiting Orlando, it’s likely you’ll want to visit as many of the amazing theme parks as possible. Combination tickets are the best way to ensure you get access to all of the parks you want at the best available price, as the cost is always cheaper than the gate price. As well as saving you money, combination tickets and multi-park tickets offer much greater flexibility and allow you to park hop, which means you’re not restricted to one park for the entire day. Single-day tickets can also only be purchased at the parks themselves, which means queuing up at the ticket windows (never a good idea!).
4. Schedule Your Visit for the Spring or Autumn Seasons
Schedule your visit for the spring and autumn seasons if possible (and try to avoid U.S. holiday periods). You will get the best combination of good weather and lower crowds – and Orlando is famous for crowds. With more than 50 million visitors a year, there are inevitably long queues at the main parks and attractions, and these can seriously take the fun out of your holiday. If you have to go in summer because of school holidays, try to pick the latter half of August when some American children are back at school and the crowds ease off a bit. Other times to avoid, if you can, are America’s Spring Break holiday (usually two weeks on either side of and including Easter), the week of Thanksgiving (the 4th Thursday in November) and the Christmas-New Year period.
5. Prepare for the tropical weather
Prepare for the fierce heat, humidity and short, sharp daily thunderstorms in summer. Unless you have been to the tropics before, nothing fully prepares you for the exhausting conditions of a Florida summer, when temperatures can hit 100F (38C) and the humidity is close to 100%, building to a daily climax with a (usually) brief electrical storm, which doesn’t cool things down too much!
6. Pace yourselves
Pace yourselves – especially in summer. With the combination of high temperatures and long queues, you need to be patient and relaxed when touring the parks. You simply cannot take them at a fast pace or you will be tired and irritable (and perhaps ill!) in no time flat. Drink plenty of water – your body will need it—and try to avoid alcohol, tea and coffee during the day as they can leave you dehydrated. Use plenty of high factor sunscreens, and keep applying them when you stop for a break or are queuing. Too many people pick up cases of sunburn in Florida and this can really make life miserable.
7. Florida’s theme parks are huge!
Be aware of the huge scale of this Central Florida wonderland. The Walt Disney World Resort alone covers 47 square miles and all their attractions are well spread out. Despite what some of the tourist maps may show, it is rarely possible to walk between attractions (and, in summer, walking is not a popular pastime!) and it can take up to 30 minutes to drive between some of the parks. So, you always need to allow plenty of time in whatever you do and try not to schedule too much in any one day, tempting as it may be.
8. Little ones will get worn out!
Young children have an absolute ball in Orlando, but they can easily be overwhelmed, daunted and exhausted by much of what’s in store. Try to let their stamina dictate your pace and be aware they will need frequent rest-stops, drink-breaks and chill-out opportunities. We see too many parents try to force the pace with their youngsters (and many of the attractions can be loud and/or scary) and this inevitably leads to a melt-down of either children or grown-ups (if your child baulks at trying an attraction, simply use Child Swap rather than forcing the issue or you may find they baulk at everything!). All the parks provide ways to cool down (water fountains, sprinklers, etc) and even if it’s only going into a shop, you will notice the air-conditioned difference.
9. Arrive as early as possible
Arrive early for the main theme parks, especially at busy times of the year. The gates will often open a good half-hour before the official time and it pays to be among the early birds as you can often do a lot more in the first hour of the day than later in the morning. Head for the big rides FIRST as these are the ones that will draw the longest queues later on, and try to save the shows for the afternoon when it’s hot and you need a sit-down in air-conditioned comfort.
10. Dining outside the theme parks saves money
Don’t have all your meals in the theme parks – you can easily double the cost of your day out that way. Try to have a good buffet breakfast before you arrive (there are literally hundreds of restaurants outside the parks) and fill the family up at the all-you-can-eat options, like Ponderosa, Golden Corral, Shoneys, Cici’s Pizza, Black Angus and the healthier option of Sweet Tomatoes. They also offer dinner buffets from 4pm – perfect for families with a lot of mouths to feed, or for picky eaters! Those who use the Kids Eat Free dining card offered by Attraction Tickets Direct will certainly feel the benefit in their wallet