Tips On Holidays In Florida With Kids

I can’t wait to take Master and Mini ATWWAH to Florida.  When we got married Mr ATWWAH and I did a California road trip and managed to spend a few days in some of the theme parks there.  I remember telling him during the fireworks at Disneyworld that kids ruined the theme park.  In my defence there were a lot of crying, over-tired toddlers there.  At the moment our kids are a bit little to appreciate/remember going to Florida so for now Chessington World of Adventures and LEGOLAND will have to do.

In the meantime one of my oldest friends, Mrs H, and her family have given me the lowdown on Florida.  They have been on two holidays there, the first when their kids were seven and three years old and more recently last summer for a fortnight when the kids were eleven and seven.  They also took Mr H’s mum with them too, Nana H.

Where did they stay?

Lake Buena Vista Resort and Spa which is a ten minute drive from Disney and a fifteen minute drive from Universal in the other direction.  It’s a self catering resort with pools, bars, restaurants, kids club and a shop.  There are different condo type suites available ranging from one to four bedroom, all with their own facilities.

As there were facilities at the hotel it also meant Nana H could stay there on some of the days she didn’t want to visit the theme parks.

hotel pool

The hotel pool with a pirate ship!

Where did they eat?

The hotel is self catering but it was only really breakfast that was made at the condo.  Eating out in Florida is cheap and there are tons of restaurants so lunch and dinner was generally always a meal out.

Hiring a car is pretty essential in Florida and their first stop was a Wal-Mart.  However, they found that although it’s cheap you have to buy everything in bulk and fresh produce is really hard to find especially fruit and good quality bread.  Mrs H also noticed that all the breakfast cereals available were ones loaded with sugar.  A couple of days later they found a supermarket called Publix, part of a chain, which was a bit pricier but had loads more choice, fresh food and you didn’t have to buy in bulk.

How many days were spent at theme parks?

From a fourteen night holiday twelve days were spent at theme parks with one rest day in the middle.  Mrs H thinks there is no need for hotels to have kids clubs in Florida as there is so much to do at the theme parks as a family.  Some days the family would spend the morning at the hotel in the pool and then head to the parks for the afternoon and evening.

Busch Gardens is a one hour drive away so a full day and night was spent there so they didn’t have to go for an extra day.  The other parks are all a short drive away so you can go back easily.

florida

Sunny Day In Florida

Any tips on how to get the best out of the theme parks?

It may sound a bit regimented but try to have an itinerary planned out.  The following apps can really help:

My Disney Experience

You can plan your holiday at home and on the go from pre-booking restaurants, viewing menus and booking fast passes which let you jump the queue, all up to 60 days before you arrive.  The app can then be used in the park to alert you of where and when your next ride time/show or dining reservation is due and how to get there.  You can edit fast passes or set up more while you’re there.

Fast passes book up quickly for popular rides and attractions.  You can pre-book three fast passes which can save hours of queuing.  The regular queue can be up to three hours on popular rides.  Once you have used your three fast passes for the day you can book one more per person each time on the day at kiosks around the park.  However, there are only a limited number of fast passes per ride/attraction each day.

Certain fast passes such as meeting Anna and Elsa from Frozen ran out a few weeks before Mrs H and her family even arrived in Florida so booking before you leave can be essential if you want to avoid disappointment.

If you can’t get a fast pass don’t despair, you can still do everything, but just join a regular queue.  This is probably best avoided if possible with very small children as none of the rides have toilet facilities in the queuing areas.

It’s not just Disney which have these apps; Universal, Sea World, Busch Gardens and all the waterparks have their own versions too.

disney characters

Meet The Disney Characters

Co-Pilot USA

This is a sat nav app for your phone which doesn’t need to go online as its maps are pre-installed meaning no huge data bills.  Its mapping is very accurate and you can also set it to avoid toll roads.

Kids Eat Free Card

This is a good money saver as it allows you to enjoy unlimited Kids Eat Free meals at over 130 family restaurants in Orlando, it’s valid for a month and is only £10.  More details here

Online Forums

Facebook groups such as ‘It’s Orlando Time’ have great tips and other members are willing to help with any questions.  Tips such as mousesavers.com or orlandoinformer.com also have good forums which Mr and Mrs H used for advice.

Disney Memory Maker

Pre-order a Disney memory maker for $150 which is cheaper than buying souvenir photos separately when you get there.  It includes unlimited photos in Disneyworld resort of you and your family taken by Disney photographers in prime locations around the parks.  These photos can be downloaded for free once you get home and include ride photos.  You can even edit them too.

What were your packing must haves?

UV protection sun suits are a must for the Florida waterparks and the hotel pool

Comfy shoes are a must in Florida and Mrs H did lots of online research before going and bought Master and Miss H Sketchers Go Walk shoes which were worn every day with no complaint, a definite must for her.

Don’t over-pack clothes as they are so cheap in the US so if your kids don’t have lots of summer clothes which fit buy them when you get there rather than at home beforehand.

What do you not need to pack?

Mrs H had bought Trespass waterproof macs in the UK before they left.  Although they were lightweight macs carrying four of them around theme parks every day got a bit tedious.  In the end they bought ponchos in a Disney theme park which is an expensive purchase.  Mrs H suggests not repeating their mistake and buying cheap ponchos from ASDA next time which will easily fit in a rucksack and not be too heavy.

What was the best part of the holiday?

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal is a must for Harry Potter fans and transports you into the film.  Mrs H was impressed that you can buy interactive wands to use around the park which make magical things happen such as point them at a shop window and a phoenix bursts into flames or water squirts at you.  The new Gringotts Bank Ride on Diagon Alley was the best ride of the holiday.

Any plans to return?

Mrs H and her family would love to go back to Florida for a third time as there are still places to see and things they haven’t done including the Kennedy Space Centre and revisiting Universal and spending more time in Busch Gardens.

 

 

 

 

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