What knowledge we can take from our first trip, and my 10 tips that I hope will help you too!
This is our second trip to Orlando, and whilst we found lots of helpful hints and tips and advice online, nothing is more valuable than the lessons you learn yourself!
I’ve put the lessons learned from our first trip to Orlando in 2011, and how we can apply those lessons to this 2013 trip back to the Magic!
I’ll start with packing…staying in a villa I knew we would have access to washing facilities, and so, I didn’t pack too many clothes because we would be able to wash them out. However, it would seem that I still packed too much! We all tended to wear the same few outfits which we comfortable and cool and so a lot of stuff went back to the UK unworn! Put all the clothes that you are planning to take on the bed (or table, or wherever it is that you pack!) and then halve it. If you know you can wash out your clothes, consider halving it again! I’m serious. We are going for 3 weeks; I plan to take enough clothes to last about 5 days. It will work out something like this:
5 pairs cropped leggings
5 sets underwear
1 maxi dress
1 swimming costume
1 cardigan (to wear on the plane)
2 pairs of Crocs (my favourite walking in theme park shoes)
My Boys…(hubs and son)
3 pairs shorts
5 sets underwear (pants/socks)
1 swimming shorts
1 light jacket (to wear on the plane)
You might think it is a bit of a chore to wash stuff while on hols, but really, the machines in the US seem to be so much faster than the ones here in the UK, and I would throw everything in, before getting ready in the mornings and by the time we were done they could be hung out in the sunshine to be dry for the evening – or anything that could go in the dryer went in there – again, superfast! It also meant that I was able to wash pretty much everything before coming home and not have to worry about that dreaded “holiday clothes laundry day” on our return!The villa where we are staying has towels, so we won’t need to pack those. We bought towels out there last time as they are HUGE, and they will do for water parks or to towel off after a downpour of rain…we had a few of those moments last time!And that’s it for clothing for us – leaving lots of room in our luggage to bring stuff back!
Buy toiletries out there! Since we will do a supermarket shop on our first day to stock up on supplies, we’ll buy them to last the time that we are on holiday – shower gel, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste etc. We did a bit of both last time, and what happened was I ran out of stuff about 2 weeks in, had to buy full sized bottles which I didn’t use up and they took up valuable weight in the suitcases on the way home! I won’t be making that mistake again.
Oh, and whilst I’m at it – buy sun cream out there too. We discovered as fab sun cream spray called Coppertone Sport. It is ultra sweatproof, waterproof and so easy to apply and re-apply throughout the day. Not wanting to burn in the hot Florida sun, we applied it about every hour or so, and none of us got burned. It is a fine mist spray which we all found much better than the UK spray sun creams which are like watery sun cream in a pump bottle – leaving you to really rub it in. This goes on pretty clear and is effortless to rub in.
Footwear is important…this holiday involves a lot of walking and standing in lines, so comfortable footwear is a MUST!
This will be a personal preference thing, I find Crocs really comfortable – not the big clunky original ones, but the cuter Mary Jane style ones. So, whilst I love Crocs, you might find walking in flip flops or trainers more comfortable. Whatever shoes you choose to wear, it is so important to wear your shoes in before you go – this is not the time to try out your brand new shoes!
I wore flip flops one day whilst out shopping – I’m really not a flip flop wearer, wearing them on the beach only; well, did I regret that! I got a huge blister between my toes where the strap goes and was in agony with it for a day or so *sad face* I won’t be wasting my time taking flip flops – see tip #1!
Both of my boys wore trainers last time with trainer socks – neither of them complained about hot feet, so that’s what they’ll be wearing again.
All that walking leads me this tip – take rest periods. Before our first trip I read so much about the importance of rest days/mornings/afternoons on such a packed holiday. I think I was so paranoid about us getting burned out quickly that we actually had too many rest days. I think as first timers we were worried about the humidity and heat (nothing prepares you for that heat that hits you when you step out of the air-conned airport for the first time! ) plus, as a plus size girl, I, on a personal level was worried about all the walking involved and how I would manage. However, surprisingly, we coped with both the heat and the walking very well, and so, this time, we won’t have so many rest days. That said, if I find we are too knackered, then we will tweak our plans and calm down a little.As we are staying in a villa with a pool and spa, at the end of every day, we’d take a dip in to relax our bodies (especially our feet!) and I brought foot cream with to soothe our tootsies. Just 10 or 20 minutes if you can, will help you through!
Parking…first off, take a photo of your number plate so that you know which car is yours – all rental cars look the same! This is handy for when you park in car parks where it’s not clearly marked what section you are in, for example outside a restaurant. Of course, you could just press the key fob and see which car flashes! When parking in theme parks take photo of the section you are in, along with the bay number. This will help you find your car quickly and easily at the end of a long day!
Also involves the car – especially if it has leather seats! You can get a nasty burn on your bum and legs if you get back into the car at the end of the day! So, throw a couple of towels down over the seats when you get out, along with a shield over the windscreen – we brought one from the UK that we bought in the pound shop. It really made a difference! Another thing we found great to do was leave a couple of frozen bottles of water in the boot of the car (ideally in a cool bag if you have one), by the end of the day they were melted but still cool for a thirst quenching drink at the end of the day. And finally, before everyone sits in the car, run the engine and the air-con to get it circulating – it’s such a welcome blast of cold air when you’ve been out in the Florida sun for most of the day!
Get a park map or look through a guide book to see all the different rides and attractions in a park. Everyone picks two of their favourites that they must go on. Make a beeline for those first…depending on what time of year you go, you may be faced with a long time-gobbling line…I figure if we at the very least do the things on our must go on list, then, anything else is an added bonus! This worked well for us last time, and we will do the same again.We roughly planned out our days – simply because we had a few Disney Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) and wanted to be at certain parks on certain days. However, on the first few days, I wasn’t feeling well, so we had to shift things around – it wasn’t the end of the world and we still managed to do everything that wanted to.I found SeaWorld to be the park where we were least prepared – there are a lot of different shows to see, and if you can get hold of the show times before you go it’s a bonus – you can then work out how to fit them all in! I sat and made a plan whilst waiting for the morning Shamu show to start. I think I’d rather have been able to do that at home (the villa)
A holiday to Orlando involves some pre-planning – where to go, what to eat and when…and different people plan on varying levels. Some with military precision, and some just going with the flow. We, I think hit somewhere in between. It’s easy to get hung up on the planning and then realising that you can’t do it all or something happens and plans have to change – it’s also easy to get upset that things aren’t going your way.
Take ponchos! Florida weather is unpredictable! We went in August and had rain pretty much every day. Our first trip to Magic Kingdom was doused with rainfall – we were drenched (even with our ponchos on! ) But honestly, it didn’t spoil a thing…we will just be better prepared for all the rain next time we go!
A trip to Orlando and all the theme parks is a busy, fast paced holiday, so take time out wherever you are to stop and look around. Look at the details in the theme parks, look for Hidden Mickeys, the nature around you, the clouds, the sunsets…I’m so looking forward to going back just to catch all the details again… take lots of photos – even if you feel like you can’t take pictures – they’re such a great aid to your memories…believe me! After 2 years I still look through my photos and smile at them remembering our first fantastic holiday to Orlando!
And finally, have fun! And I don’t mean just because you’re going to a theme park – be silly, meet the characters, get involved, talk to people..enjoy the time you have out there – it’s such a huge expensive holiday, and you may only get to go once in a lifetime, so make it really count! That said, we went for 3 weeks the first time because we thought we’d only be able to go that one time…and here we are, 3½ months from our second trip, with a third pencilled in for 2015…if there is a will there is a way!