It wasnt until our close family friends went to Walt Disney World
back in 2004 did i really take notice of the theme parks in America, i was very content with going to the likes of the American Adventure and Alton Towers, one was 20 minutes from my house and although a small park it did have enough to make a great day especially when the park wasnt full. Alton Towers however was Britains biggest theme park and you really need to be lucky to get a slow day when you werent queueing for an age.
As good as the UK parks are they are nothing compared to the likes of Walt Disney World
and Universal Orlando.
Choosing the Right Tour Operator such as Virgin
should be your first step, you may get cheaper options but the flight can be a killer, remember to go to the USA you have to book in 3 hours before you depart, then you have a 9 hour flight, paying that bit more is a neccessity, you can fly with the likes of Cosmos/Monarch
or Thomas Cook
but for quality of service and hidden extras then Virgin
are your best options.
From the start you need to know that a 2 Week stay in Orlando is going to be expensive, depending on the time of year, if say 4 or 5 of you are going heres a typical breakdown.
Cost of Holiday - £5000 and thats the minimum, we paid this for a 3 bedroomed villa, a hotel in Disney or Universal resorts would be majorly more to pay for, you can opt for a cheaper hotel but be wary and always read reviews. Different times of the year can be vastly more expensive too.
Cost of Car Hire - £500 - Be warned that "free" car hire only pays for the very basic insurances and you will be paying a lot more on top, do your homework when booking, make sure you have the very best insurance, like in this country you need to be protected.
Cost of theme Park Tickets £2000 - If your going to do both Walt Disney World
and Universal Orlando, SeaWorld
and also Busch Gardens your going to be paying around £400 each for the combined tickets.
Spending Money - For 4/5 of you your going to need at least £110 a day to pay for food and drinks, somedays you may not spend this much but you may also overspend. Petrol for the car you should budget for at least 3 tankfuls in 2 weeks, i would say £130 for that. Now thats roughly £1600 but in Orlando they have the Premium Villas where you get designer clothes at Bargain Prices, bring as much money as you can but watch the weight and keep the tags on the majority of what you buy, you are allowed to bring back a fair amount but if you go over your weight or are silly and bring back 20 ipads then your gonna get stopped by customs.
I would say go for a minimum of £3000 for food/petrol and spends.
So in all budget for around £11000.
The Flight Part
The2nd to worst part of the holiday is flying and on the 4 times we have flown we had one terrible and 3 OK flights. Virgin
should be the best options for you, make sure to get quotes from both to see which is best, what i will say is that Virgin
were easily the best and the added extras made up massively for any extra costs.
The flight journey on our Virgin Plane was great, decent movies, good space and good food too and with staff that were very pleasent and went that extra inch that you needed.
The Airport and Finding Your Location
Depending on which airport you land at is where the fun begins, Sanford is a smaller airport but further away from Orlando and Orlando International is much closer but also massive. If you land at Sanford or Orlando and have a shuttle waiting for you then move to next chapter. If your renting a car then read on, first thing about car rental is that the folks behind the desk will hard sell you an upgrade, refuse at all costs and just say we will check our car first and if its too small then we will come back to you, you will get fleeced for money otherwise, be strong.
If you go with the likes of Alamo then youll get to pick from a load of cars in the same class as the one you have hired, good tip is to go for one with a big boot
, If your at Sanford then you need to head to the I4 Motorway and if you havent drove in the USA then it will be a shock for you, its like a free for all, keep to the speedlimit but go into the middle lane, because they enter in the slow lane to us your well advised to keep away from that.
On the large roads in the USA they drive like on a race circuit, if you think idiots in Britain drove bad you aint seen nothing, they overtake, undertake, last second lane changes, be on your guard at all times, if you have a sat nav use it. Like in britain if you see a dodgy area then avoid it.
If your in a hotel just make sure the room is decent first, if not complain and asked to be moved. If your in a Villa youll either register that night or the next morning, if there is any problems report them straight away, if you paid for a top notch villa and it isnt then complain and ask to be moved.
If you have a safe in the Villa use it, if it has an alarm make sure to use that also.
The Theme Parks in Orlando are the best in the World, i could go on for hours, big tips are to try all of them if only for a day each, ill do each park one at a time.
This is where you pinch yourself, the dream has come true, rides to see are Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain and thats just a few, awesome park especially for younger children.
Very much an underrated park, this has two massive rides in Test Drive and Soarin but so much more including a park on its own with rides/buildings and shops from many regions of the world.
The rapids and Expedition Everest are a must to ride on here, my least favourite out of the Disney parks but still decent.
Disneys Hollywood studios
Here youll find Tower of Terror, The Aerosmith Roller Coaster and Star Wars Star Tours, Toy Story, Indiana Jones Show and Backlot Tour and a heck of a lot more.
Disneys Water Parks
Out of all the water parks in Orlando the 2 Disney water parks are by far the best, they cater for the young up to those who are thrill seekers and theres even some water coasters too.
In my opinion a one visit day only park, good for shows like Shamu and theres one ride similiar to Soarin that i went on once but never found it again.
The Universal Orlando Parks
You will die and go to heaven here, The Mummy is one of the best rollercoasters in the world, ET, Men in Black, Simpsons Ride are just a few of the world class rides here, quite simply a must visit.
Islands of Adventure
Another dream park, The Hulk Coaster, Spiderman, The rapids get you soaked, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter World are just some of whats here, visit it as soon as you can.
The Theme Parks are world class but the shopping is too, you can get designer clothes at the sort of prices you would pay at a supermarket or primark in the UK, its the only place in the world i enjoy my shopping, the premium outlets at both ends of international drive make it a must visit location.
Its not cheap to get to Orlando and but Theme Park Tickets but its so worth it, its much cheaper when you are here and the Parks, Eating out and the Shopping are better than anywhere in the world. Put it on your bucket list to do before you die, save up and live the dream that Walt Disney made for us.