I’ve had the privilege to holiday in Florida about 6/7 times now, 5 times as a child and twice now as an adult. This May/June was my first independent trip to the sunshine state without either of my parents, on a girl’s trip with my best friend Ashleigh.
Being the super organised annoying human being I am, everything was planned well in advance and paid off as soon as possible. However, you always learn something new every time you book a holiday so I thought I would collate a collection of tips for those who are thinking about visiting Florida/Orlando in the near or far future!
One of if not the biggest and busiest tourist attraction in Florida is of course the many Disney Theme Parks that are spread out around and beyond International Drive. With 5 theme parks to visit as well as the Disney Springs Shopping District the kids and Disney Fanatics will not be disappointed. Each park is unique in its own way and I have a couple of tips which will hopefully help you navigate and plan a little better:
Magic Bands & The My Disney Experience App
• The parks now have free wifi which was a godsend when we were over, not just so we could brag on our social media feeds with all the sunny photographs and character pictures, but more so that we could access the Disney App. The App allows you to view live waiting times for every single ride in the parks, and you can even filter them to view the park you are in! This meant that we were able to see which rides had the least queues and head to these first! Another life saver was the FastPass + System. Fast passes are used throughout the park where you book your slot on the ride during a certain time frame. These special skip the queue passes last for an hour from your chosen time, for example we booked Thunder Mountain for 2:15pm but we were able to use the fast pass anytime in between 2:15 and 3:15. These can only be used once and you can book 3 in advance per day. What was amazing was that you can access these fast passes on the app 30 days in advance to your first day in the park!
• Gone are the days were you always had to carry around the paper tickets with different characters on the back (I always had to have pluto) now with the way technology is advancing you can buy what is called a magic band! This is a band that you strap onto your wrist that comes in different colours, styles and character personalisation’s ($6.99 for plain coloured bands, $12.99 for certain character bands and £22 for certain characters and limited edition bands). It has a Mickey mouse symbol on the front and this acts as your access to the parks, for fast passes and for scanning your photos (rides and characters) onto your app. The bands are really simple to link up and everything is then accessed, changed or added via the app.
• If you book tickets in a package deal, for this year only you also receive a free memory maker, which again is accessed via your app! What is a memory maker? Well it pretty much means that every single photo you get taken by an Official Disney photographer you get for absolutely free! That’s right! FREE! The photographer places a machine on your band and transfers the photos right to your app where you can then view them around 20 minutes later! These are completely accessible and you can share, download and save them as many times as you want! After this year it will go back to its original price at around $189-$199 but honestly I believe that it worth every penny of that especially if you are meeting a lot of the characters and wanting to relive those hilarious ride photos.
Disney Parks and Dining
• Never do Magic Kingdom on a Monday! Most people arrive in during the weekend and because Magic is the biggest park and the most well-known most visitors tend to hit it first thing on a Monday. We went on a Sunday and unfortunately the monorails had broken down so just be prepared as when one of the transportation vehicles breaks down then everyone goes a bit crazy. The ferry is a lovely trip over, and if you manage to squeeze down to the very front then you get a wonderful view of Cinderella’s castle.
• Epcot is highly underrated, though not as many rides, Epcot has lots to do and is a great starter park if you have never been! If you are planning Fast passes, Soarin and Test Track are my two top suggestions! Soarin usually reaches 60-90 minutes within the first half an hour of the park being open and Test Track is usually the same although it breaks down a lot so be prepared to wait a while! If you are going without kids never be afraid to skip the queues by queuing as a single rider, it means you may get split up but sometimes you and your friend/partner/group can end up in the same car or row anyway, and you queued a lot less. Not too fond of the rides, take a walk around the world showcase, it’s absolutely massive and you can experience tons of different countries, from France to Morocco, London to China. We dined at Nine Dragons and it was a wonderful experience.
• Dining at the parks is expensive so be prepared! Also if you want to dine at the parks especially around dinner time, book a reservation via the Disney Experience App a couple of days in advance! Believe me it saves a lot of hassle and a lot of waiting. If you check the restaurants on the app it will always give you the menu choices and some will also give you the price of the dishes which is handy for planning ahead and how much money you need to bring.
• Don’t forget about the tip whilst dining, whilst dining at Tony’s in Magic Kingdom the Gratuity was 18% so around $9-$10 dollars whereas Nine Dragons at Epcot was $6.
• Animal Kingdom this year will be a little busier than usual due to the opening of the new Avatar World Pandora, with 3 hour waits for the rides we were only able to venture around this amazing new world but it was absolutely beautiful.
Other Nifty Tips and Tricks
• If you want a good view of the Magic Kingdom Fireworks without getting crushed by the crowd at the very end. Get a spot at the bandstand on Main Street USA. You can see the whole firework show from here and you are also closest to the exit!
• The Shops and Rides stay open an hour after the fireworks have ended so if you are in no rush to go home, or you want to wait till the crowds have cleared this is the perfect excuse.
• The shops and toilets throughout all the Disney parks are air conditioned! If you feel you are getting too hot and need to cool down, take a stroll through the shops and have a browse.
• For the Epcot fireworks, get your space about half an hour before hand. Anywhere around the world showcases is perfect as they all overlook the lake where the fireworks take place!
• Buy ponchos before you head to the park! For the thunderstorms and the water rides ponchos can be a lifesaver! Poundland sell them for £1, the parks sell them for $10-$12!
• If you can buy a 12 pack of water and freeze them over night! This is one of my biggest tips. We did this every night and then just threw them in our backpacks and let them slowly melt throughout the day. The water was freezing but was very refreshing when the temperatures started to soar! All Disney parks have water fountains were you can fill your water bottles throughout the day. Water is $3 if you forget.
• DOLE WHIP! GET IT! (Just around the corner from Pirate of The Caribbean Ride in Adventureland)
• If you want to ride in the front just ask a Disney Member and usually they will stand you to the side so that you can get the front seat on the next go!
These are just some of the Disney Tips I picked up over my 10 days there! Hopefully they will have helped!