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- Looking forward to Royal Ascot
Holiday planning…taking it to the extreme!
It’s January, the time that so many of us take to plan our family holidays; who can blame us when the weather is cold and the days dark, we all need something to look forward to!
So we head into the travel agents, we start our search online, we ask friends where they are planning to head to and we begin to make plans…
Unless, that is, you are heading to Orlando, in which case your holiday planning will have started months if not years ago!
We are off the the sunshine state very soon and can’t wait, but this is a holiday like no other. The planning is relentless….! Even coming from a travel industry background, I cannot believe the organising that is now required for a two week holiday!
Obviously our first decision was when to go and where to stay; summers are so hot in Florida, we have personally chosen to go off peak during our winter and overlap with a school break. I know the weather in Orlando may be a bit iffy, but mid 70’s will feel like a heatwave compared to our usual winter weather!
Where to stay took a little more thought. Having decided already that ‘this time round’ we are just visiting the Disney parks and leaving Universal etc until our children are a little older, we were unsure whether to stay onsite at a Disney hotel or close by. Swings and roundabouts. So many options. Hubby was useless and said ‘you choose!’ and then ‘but I don’t want us all staying in the same room for the whole holiday!”; decision made, a two bedroom townhouse within a couple of miles of the parks is booked.
If travelling on a British passport, you need to apply well in advance for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). Do not be conned by websites offering to do this for you for a huge fee; head to the official website here and complete yourself. This currently costs US $14 per person and you will receive a response pretty much immediately (you may need to refresh or log off and back on again). Aim to do this ideally before booking your holiday, just in case, as if declined there is a lengthy process for obtaining a full visa.
Having visited pre-children, we knew we would hire a car to make getting around easier. With children in tow, even this option is not simple! Car size, boot space, one driver or two, car seats to hire or take own? We’ve chosen the later and have managed to pick up two new high-back booster seats for a great price in the sales. Apparently most airlines will carry these for free – lets hope so! Another evening of questioning and decision making, finalising with a hunt for the paper part of our drivers licenses!
Next a more fun aspect of planning; where to visit! Which theme parks to spend your hard earned money on?! If you are viewing your trip as a once in a lifetime holiday, then most holiday makers will try to fit in all of the main theme parks and attractions. This is difficult with so little time and so many places to go to! The park tickets add a HUGE amount to your holiday cost so plan carefully. If you are thinking you will head to each park just once during your trip then you will be paying an enormous daily entry fee (when you divide your park ticket cost by how many days you think you will visit) – it may be worth making more out of the parks that you know are your ‘must visit’ options and head back to them more than once. We choose very early on with our planning that we would rather have plenty of time per park than rush to fit them all in, hence Disney this time round while our twin sons are 5 years old, with the hope that in a few years time we will go back to do the rest…
Fast passes – Disney currently allows you 3 per day free, Universal charges you per day for them; do you actually NEED them? Yes! Yes! Yes! Well, most definitely utilize the free Disney ones; a Disney FastPass+ allows you to reserve access to selected attractions, entertainment and more, at a time that suits you – in other words, no queuing! Prebook from over 60 of your favorite Walt Disney World experiences―with the flexibility to change your plans at any time. You can secure up to 3 FastPass+ selections per day in advance and after you redeem your initial 3 picks, head to a kiosk in the park where you are able to make another selection!
Now, the downside to this is you do need to plan which park you will be at on which day. Hmmmm….military operation springs to mind! I have loosely planned; if you are desperate to ride the most popular attractions, this is the best way of limiting your queue times, especially during peak seasons. If you are happy to go with the flow, then I recommend to book your passes for the rides you think you may like and if your plans change you can cancel them with no problems.
The exchange rate is not at all in our favour – gone are the days of two dollars to the pound! Sob! Even within the period of time between us booking and going, we will need an extra 10% more spending money in order to take the same amount of dollars on holiday…and how to actually take this money is our next decision; cash or prepaid card? Probably half and half for us, unless one way offers a better exchange rate. Prepaid cards are a little more initial hassle but they do tend to come with insurances to protect your money, just in case.
A huge recommendation is to join some Facebook groups aimed at holiday makers in Orlando. There are many around, some better than others, all with great hints and tips that even the most experienced traveller to Orlando can learn from! I did become a little fixated at first, especially with the daily blogs that people were posting about their holidays, but I have picked up so many great ideas of things to do, ways to save, experiences not to be missed – the groups are my number one top tip!
This is not going to be a cheap holiday, no matter what you plan. Adding on a 18-20% tip at every restaurant soon adds up. Ticket prices in shops also have tax added to them at the till. There’s really no getting away from it, you need to save hard and make the most amazing memories you can – if you are interested in planning a trip of a lifetime, watch this space and I will post an update on our return…
Orlando, we are prepared and we are coming to see you!!!