Last Updated – 27th May 2019
We have written our personal guide to Orlando with tips and tricks to help with your holiday as well as information that we feel you should know. Please remember these are our opinions from experience #BitOfLightReading
We want you to enjoy your holiday and go home having the best experience possible. So here is our guide with a few tips and tricks to getting the best out of the parks.
Don’t go on a weekend! We get on average 25 days holiday with work here in the UK, but in America they get a whopping … 13 ! So believe me when I say that Americans absolutely utilize their weekends. So don’t do the parks on a weekend where you have to queue up with the locals as well.
Do not get this confused with the parks being empty on the weekdays as they won’t be, Orlando gets 72 million visitors a year and they are not all sat in their hotel rooms twiddling their fingers. But there will be a big difference (especially in the Disney parks) to the queuing from about an 1.5h to a weekend day of 3h.
Also avoid going on American bank holidays.
Use the Disney fast passes. The second you have received your tickets, put the bar code into the Disney app and book them instantly. You can do this months before you even leave for your holiday. Each of you get three passes, so if your going with granny and granddad too who will definitely not be going on Space Mountain, use theirs as well to get an extra six passes.
In universal you have to pay for a fast pass ticket which allows you to use the pass once on all of the rides. This can be quite expensive, pretty much double the price of the actual day ticket. When we go, we all go on the single rider lines and fly through the whole park in approx 3 hours if we get there at doors opening.
You can easily do both Universal Studios and Universal Island of Adventures in a single day. Just make sure you hit Universal Studios first as that tends to close at 5/6pm-ish where as Universal Islands of Adventures closes late at night.
Sea World has a few good roller coasters and every time we go (on a week day) we find it is empty. We usually walk straight on to a ride and not queue. Don’t buy fast passes here as it is a waste of money.
Buy your tickets in advance. If you buy them on the gate you will pay much more for them. We cannot definitively say which of these internet ticket sites are the cheapest as they fluctuate from month to month.
We tend to buy a 14 day Flex Park Ticket (Inc. Sea World ticket and Aquatica) + an additional 2 day Disney ticket for about £650 per person.
If we do find a site that we think should not be missed we will add them here. We update all our pages regularly. so please don’t forget to bookmark.
Sites we have used are (alphabetical order – nothing preferential):
America Attractions <- (Generally Cheapest)
Orlando Attraction Tickets Direct
Virgin Holidays <- (Very good January sales deals)
*We do not have any affiliation/commissions with these sites)
Disney Parking is a bit pricey and might be worth an UBER instead, plus it drops you to the door in some circumstances.
$25 – Standard Parking – a bit of walking involved
$30 – Large Vehicle – RVs Vans etc.
$50 – Preferential parking – much closer but its a premium.
Tips (not the money kind)
New 4th Universal Studios Theme Park on Universal Boulevard called “Fantastic Worlds” and is expected to contain ‘Super Nintendo World‘ – more information to follow on worlds.
This is due for completion in 2023/2024 and is located at the South-East part of Universal Boulevard as shown on our interactive map at the bottom of this page.
Maybe this will dilute the ride queue times down a bit? maybe it will invite more tourists? who knows? but what we do know is that there will be more to add to your to do list. All attractions can be found in our Map of Orlando at the bottom of this page
Speaking of to do lists, we have tried to do everything popular in Orlando and its pretty much impossible. We tried to hit two parks in a day. We tried to visit everywhere we wanted to go and still struggled for time. Two weeks may seem a lot but there are more than 14 attractions in Orlando. So our Orlando Holiday Tips are as follows:
1) Plan wisely where you want to go
2) Don’t plan theme/water parks back-to-back
3) Don’t plan theme/water parks for the weekends
4) Do small things on the weekends – Escape Rooms, Zip Lines, Crazy Golf, Entertainment Dinners, Dave and Busters, Arcades, Etc.
If your looking at doing anything that might require going to one of those ‘Time Share’ places, you can avoid them and try this company You Name It Tours They are good, cheap and a family run business located on International Drive. They will sort out tours for wherever you want to go and whatever you want to do.
There are no affiliations with any of the links displayed in this document. We use them ourselves.
Some of you out there may want to know how far you will be walking on this holiday. We clocked up 52 miles in two weeks! But on average most people walk 16,000 – 20,000 steps a day. Bring comfortable trainers. Remember the little ones will be walking this with you and you do find they get slightly grumpy towards the end of the day. So if they are complaining that they don’t want to get in the pushchair today, #TakeItAnyway
For the weight watchers out there, whilst walking around everywhere, eating everything you could want and not dieting whilst on holiday. When ‘we’ get home we only tend to put on 1-2 pounds max! #InterestingFact
On The Bus or iRide
If you stay on International Drive, Orlando. Most tend not to get a hire car as they just hop on the iRide up and down International Drive and for $20 for a 14 day ticket each is pennies and those iRide green buses travel up and down all day and night every 15 minutes. There is also an app to tell you where all the buses are. If you want to pay per-ride it costs $2 per person over the age of three.
The iRide does not drop you to Disney World Parks nor Orlando Studio Parks. Every hotel offers multiple free buses pretty much hourly to every attraction in Orlando. Just ask at your reception desk and they will book you one for free. But you may need to give them notice the day before as demand is usually high especially for gate opening times.
If your staying at a villa in Orlando then you can get the normal everyday Lynx bus. They are everywhere. Walk to your nearest bus stop and it will tell you how to get to where you want to go.
In The Car
If you have a hire car then you can go anywhere you want to, when you want to. Just remember please be careful driving on the opposite side of the road.
The laws generally are the same as ours, keep to the speed limit, use your indicators, try not to run anyone over, don’t jump a red light! well actually that’s technically not correct, you legally can turn right on a red light in America unless there is a sign stating you can’t. But you must come to a complete stop and treat it as a stop sign before turning right.
If there is no sign, you can then go. When you’re sat at a red light and someone behind you is blasting their horn and you’re on a red light it’s another indication that you can probably turn right. Hard to get used to, but keep this in mind. #RedLightRebel
Try and park in the shade if possible. The sun there gets seriously hot and the inside of a car and literally becomes an oven. I saw this video on YouTube a while back of someone cooking some eggs and bacon inside a car to show how hot a car can get and why not to leave children and animals in a car.
Parking is chargeable at the theme parks and pricey, so keep this in mind as it can seriously eat into your budget without you realizing it and before you know it you will be dipping into your emergency credit cards
Don’t waste your money on a Sat-Nav package with the hire company, this can be around an extra $80 !! Instead download an offline Sat-Nav so it doesn’t use your data but does your your GPS which is free.
Freeway junctions do not numerically increase. Eg. 1..2..3..4 instead they use mile markers from junction 1. So don’t be surprised to see you have passed junction 33 and the next junction is 39. This just means that junction 39 is 39 miles from junction 1.
Petrol or Diesel? If you have a hire car you may find yourself in the situation we did a couple of times where were at the gas station and not know if its Petrol or Diesel. Well its simple ALL CARS TAKE PETROL! Only pickup trucks and larger takes Diesel. So when you are at the pump, go inside and give them your card/cash and ask to prepay $10 per quarter of a tank of ‘Regular’ (which is 87). Go outside, put the nozzle in the car and press the 87 button. Begin filling.
Our recommendation for rental a car is to use CarRentals.com for about $22 a day for the car and $9 a day insurance with Dollar Thrifty, we got a KIA Sportage on our last visit. But on this particular deal its the vendors discretion of a compact or large car. So send the wife in looking her best 🙂
UBER is extremely popular in Orlando and cars are everywhere. If you have the UBER app setup on your phone and have used it in the UK with your PayPal, you can use the same app and same payment method in Orlando. Just use it as you would if you were at home.
We have had holidays where we used nothing but UBER and didn’t spent $150 over the two weeks. (Cheaper than a hire car and don’t forget insurance)
You can tip through the app after the car has left if you want to. Or slip them a dollar or two in cash.
Food and Drink
American Tap Water
Tap water in Orlando is ‘ok’ to the standard where you can brush your teeth, boil and make a brew and have as ice, but I wouldn’t personally drink it from the tap. There are micro-traces of lead in the water. Which wouldn’t kill you if accidentally had a glass or 20. Our stomachs are used to the best water system in the world and may give you a few extra mins on the toilet.
If you are a water-holic, you can get cases of the stuff from Walmart for a couple of dollars and with the humid Orlando heat you should always have several bottles with you whilst you are out and about. Note, you can take soft drinks into any theme park bar Sea World.
There are water fountains in the parks, these are safe to drink as the water passes through a water filtration system before hitting the tap.
Food over there is pretty much identical to ours, bread is a little sweeter, but one thing you will see is that though our country has made a ‘voluntary’ law (2009) to not use specific colourings and E-numbers, in America they have not.
Lots of those bright and colourful foods like luminous cereal or those colourful slushies that the kids are screaming for will probably send them a little more hyper than usual. #FunTimes
If you’re a meat eater, go and experience it! the livestock over there are developed and fed differently and as a Country that has a massive over stock of animals you will find the meat incredibly cheap.
Those who have been before will know when you see the bacon on the breakfast bar, we all stare and think ‘what on earth is that’. The reason for this is their bacon is from the pig’s belly, where as ours comes from the pig’s back – hence ‘British Back Bacon’ (less fat) – Brits win here hands down and their’s looks like the old lady from Benidorm TV show (Sorry Madge).
Eat the fruit, eat the vegetables, try anything that is grown! it all tastes amazing being grown in that hot weather and getting all that goodness from the sun.
Broccoli, broccoli, and some more broccoli. Where as we have a grilled tomato on a pub dinner here, they do the same with broccoli. Personally I hate tomatoes so for me its a win.
Tea is terrible there, so take your own PG Tips or Tetley’s if you remember to and yes you can take it on the plane. If you forget, use two of their Lipton’s bags. They shouldn’t charge you for the extra bag either.
Our milk and their milk can be confusing. They use half and half in their teas and coffees which is half milk and half cream. Personally, being as British as you can get, think cream in tea is just weird! So with your hot drinks, ask for ‘Cereal Milk’ or ‘Non Creme Milk’ then it will resemble closely to what we get with green top milk.
Plus they think that is actually weird not to have cream and its funny to watch their expressions when you ask for it.
Lemonade! Do you like a nice Lager shandy? or a Cointreau and Lemonade. What we know lemonade as, they don’t. Lemonade to Americans is what we know as ‘cloudy lemonade’. So putting that in your beer is a bit vile (we learned the hard way) You need to ask for Sprite.
Biscuits – They call cookies, biscuits to them are currant-less scones.
Resturants we love:
- Miller’s Ale House, International Drive.
- Cafe Mineiro Brazilian Steak House, International Drive.
- Cold Stone Ice Cream Parlor, International Drive.
- Bahama Breeze, International Drive.
- Longhorn Steak House, International Drive.
- IHOP, International Drive.
- Game Changers, International Drive.
- Red Lobster, International Drive.
- Cheesecake Factory, Mall at Millennia.
Food on a budget guide
Maybe you get to a part of the holiday where you check the wallet and think “oh $&@#”. Being in Orlando day to day doesn’t need to cost a fortune if you know how to “be a local”.
Breakfast, what do you do at home? Get to Walmart and fill up on cereals, breads, etc. Think about it, a family of four all paying $14 each and then put a 20% tip on top. Then account for this for 14 days. That is $940 just on breakfast when it could be $30 for a gallon of milk, tea bags, bread and a few boxes of cereal. Just because your on holiday does not mean you have to be stupid and break the bank unnecessarily.
Have the odd treat but be mindful of those figures. The cheapest breakfast we found if you do want to eat out is Denny’s or iHop both a bit mediocre but filling. If you want to go even cheaper you can go to Pondarosa for their $7 +tip buffet breakfast. Very basic but you can eat til you pop.
If you visit places that do not give too much of a waitress service you do not need to tip. Again, working on a family of four you are looking at roughly $25 each for lunch totaling $1,680 for 14 days. This equates to $280 just in tips for lunch and that is not working out a few drinks each on top. Have a few lunches at Subway, McDonalds, KFC, Chick-Fil-A, Cicis Pizza Buffet or Taco Bell.
Baby Food Guide
You can actually take baby milk over the 100ml limit through customs but they will ask you to drink some – yuck. What we do is order those pre-made sealed bottles beforehand and pick them up from Boots, using Boots’ Reserve and Collect service of the airport of your choice. This will be ready at Boots for you inside the departure lounge. You must give them 5-6 days notice though.
You can also take the powder through and empty bottles and make them up on the plane.
Being out in the heat can’t be good for the milk, though we’re not scientists I think this would just be common sense. So take a bottle cooler with you.
You can get them from Amazon for cheap before you go
Amazon: Tommee Tippee Baby Bottle Insulated Cooler we use this one and works perfectly well.
In all areas of the UK the legal drinking age is 18. In America it is down to different States having different laws, and unfortunately it is 21 in the State of Florida. So if you’ve turned 18 at home and used to having a pint, it is against the law in Florida. So enjoy your Sprite.
Disney Food and Dining
We have seen a lot of requests on Disney dining options and menus. For me to put everything in here would make this 20 times longer. So below is a link to a site that shows all the dining option and prices throughout the Disney parks.
So the holiday is booked and you’re checking that weather app daily and you see the dreaded ‘thunderstorms’ … and maybe you start shouting at the spouse as they booked it so obviously they are to blame for climate control. STOP! DO NOT PANIC. The weather app always shows the worst part of the day. If there is lightning at 11pm at night, the apps show the lightning bolt for the whole day. Chill, you will get hot sunshine.
Orlando, Florida, is a very humid flat city. You will always get thunderstorms without fail almost every day. Its blue skies from the second you wake up until about 3pm-5pm where the air cools and clouds come over from the ocean bringing thunder and lightning.
A few facts here, because of the heat when it stops raining, the ground will usually be bone dry within 15 minutes.
Secondly the rain does not usually last long at all. It is like the residual heat in the ground evaporates the rain incredibly fast.
Thirdly, you will be thankful of a nice refreshing blast of rain. Its nothing like British miserable rain. It comes down hard, fast and its over with. So do not worry about those apps.
It is hot. Damn hot. Do not underestimate the heat. Stay hydrated and rub sun lotion like you’re life depends on it, because technically it does.
I kept asking my teenage daughter “have you put cream on” and you get the auto response “yes dad” well she now has scars on her shoulders. So in this circumstance all teenagers are god damn liars and younger kids are incapable. So put it on them yourself!
We have rented our Disney World Villa to loads of families and we have heard almost the same story from so many of them.
Air Conditioning and Temperatures
Did you know only half a single percent has Air Conditioning in residential homes in the UK, in the US 87% of homes have Air conditioning. So what should you set it to when you’re in your room as they use Fahrenheit?
We recommend 68f. Which is 18c.
The formula to work out what their temp is: C = double it then add 32. So 30c would 60 + 32 = 92f
No, we do not love them at all! They are these ginger flying ants sized bugs that connect to the backside of another Love Bug and ‘get it on for a month’ in the months of May and September. They do not bite or sting or feed off you and will do nothing to you other than land on you and enjoy the sun. They are highly attracted to white, so think about your clothing attire around the pool. If you give the a smack with your hand in the air this is usually enough to kill them when they hit the floor. They come out and mate for the month then they die. Oh, and they love playing chicken with your hire car.
Walmart or Publix
When you arrive, you will want to get some provisions: water, pop, snacks, sweets, souvenir t-shirts, Mickey Mouse ears, more sun lotion, fridge magnets, etc. go and get all this on day one, time is valuable and you don’t want to get to the end of the holiday and need to go back, as I stated above above time is valuable and 14 days isn’t very long.
It is incredibly cheap. If you want to have a laugh, go take a look at the meat isle and see what they pay for huge steaks, it will make you sick to think what we pay.
If you are buying stuff to take home, don’t forget your baggage allowance and how hard it was to fit everything in your suitcase going out because the giant Mickey Mouse teddy bear probably will not fit. #ItsNotAChallenge #ShopSmart
Malls and Clothes
Personally we don’t buy all new holiday clothes and pack them to take. Instead we half fill our cases and then hit the outlets and the malls (especially Forever 21) and buy all our clothes on day one.
PrePay Sim Cards
Remember to turn off your roaming on your phones or you will end up with a £400+ phone bill when you get home. Don’t forget to do the kids phones too.
If you do have kids and they absolutely cannot live without WiFi/Internet data, Go to AT&T shop on West Sand Lake Road (the road that crosses the worlds large McDonalds and International Drive) and buy a month $45 prepay sim card (8gb of data). Pop it in your smartphone and let everyone tether the data from your phone.
8gb goes a long way except if the kids are watching non-stop YouTube so warn them to keep it to the hotel WiFi #ProblemSolved
Duty Free Guide
You can bring in the following duty free from the USA back to the UK
100 Cigarillos – I don’t know what these are
16 Litres of beer
4 Litres of wine (not sparkling)
2 Litres of sparking wine or spirits/liqueurs under 22% proof
1 Litre of spirits/liqueurs over 22% proof
Duty Free is only available to the carrier if they are 17 years and over. So don’t think you can bring back another 200 cigarettes using the baby’s allowance. #ParentingFails
Our custom to their custom is quite different, as you’re probably already aware of. In the UK we are meant to tip 10% but how many of us actually do that? In America, everyone tips! The custom there is:
+ 10% for bad service – Yes, seriously !!
+ 15% for good service
+ 20% for excellent service
Now far be it for me to tell you what to tip, this is just customary. You need to keep in mind that tipping is extremely expected. If you want to tip 200% for your service then go ahead.
This has been edited based on a readers comment. Thank you Vic for your comment and is duly noted.
Remember, you only tip (food-wise) for sit down service, do not go tipping the McDonald’s staff or the staff at the Walmart checkouts.
Why not leave your spare coins in a cup for the cleaners in your hotel room? They are usually on minimum wage and in our experience do a great job. If you put the coins in a cup throughout the holiday they will not touch them nor expect that it is automatically theirs, leave a small note when you leave saying thank you. It is a thankless job for them. #SpreadSomeLove
Remember to check the bill. Some places add ‘Gratuity’ automatically so you are not expected to tip anything further. If you want to you can.
We went to Top Golf on our last visit. They told us to pay the server (who visits you whilst you’re playing to take food and drinks orders) at the end of your game. The game costs $55 for the hour (peak rate). I had two bottles of Bud. The final bill come to $70. So what do you tip? We made the mistake and paid $14 tip instead of $3 tip. Server must have been very happy. So as a final tip on this topic, you should only tip for your food and drinks.
How much money to take
Overall, after you pay for your flights and accommodation and workout your spending money (roughly £60 a day each person), add 15% on top of that figure to give away as tips. Take an emergency credit card just in case. #BePrepared
Hidden or Extra Charges
A lot of hotels in America charge ‘resort fees‘ they state that this fee usually covers pool towels, external cleaning, WiFi, pool heating, air con, etc. basically resort stuff. Whether I agree with this or not (I think you can guess), This can be quite pricey and a cost that most people are completely unaware of. The standard is usually an additional $30 a night per room.
Over 14 days this can become quite expensive. Make sure you contact the hotel and confirm if there are resort fees or not. As an example from our experiences, ‘The Rosen Inn’ hotels do not charge this fee. Also villas do not/should not charge these fees either.
You can check if your hotel charges resort fees here
If you are staying in a villa in Orlando, then they should not charge you ‘Resort Fees’ as they ARE NOT A RESORT. But the extra optional charges do include pool heating charges as this is quite costly to the villa owner.
Even in the boiling heat of Florida, swimming pools are quite cold. The heating of the pool will not turn it in to a giant bath, but more so give it the swimming baths at home sort of temperature yet still very refreshing.
Specific Travel Credit Cards
Whilst taking cold hard cash to some people might feel more satisfactory than using a credit card, there are actually specific credit cards out there that get your near perfect exchange rates, which basically means all these exchange bureaus where you get your money changed buy the money they sell to you from the actual exchange rates and then charge your a good chunk more. If you check the following links to see the differences.
A specialist Travel credit card gives you near perfect exchange rate (as shown in the first link) So straight away changing £2000 would instantly save you a few hundred pound by cutting out the bureaus.
MasterCard has a better rate than Visa credit cards so keep that in mind if you are going to take this option.
Here is an eligibility checker from Martins Money Tips (which we have no affiliations with or commissions with) we have used ourselves and got the Halifax Travel MasterCard.
3 – Martin’s Money Tips Travel Credit Card Checker
If you do apply for a card and a concern of yours is ‘what if I lose it’ why not order a ‘spouse’ a card too so you have a spare and make sure you keep them separate. #problemSolved
One thing that you will find strange and uneasy about is when you pay with your Credit Card, they take your card away to scan it. Some times they ask for a pin, sometimes they don’t. There is no pattern that I can figure out behind this. But this is absolutely normal to them. If the worst was to happen, your card would be 100% protected with your provider.
If you have been to America before you will agree its very annoying when you see a price on a shelf for example $5 and go to the checkout to pay and its $5.08 !! This drives me crazy. Basically in the UK all our prices are displayed with VAT. In America they don’t show their version of ‘VAT’ on their products. This is EVERYWHERE. Restaurants, Parks, Walmart, Bars, Etc.
We wasn’t sure weather to add this section, but YouTubers are growing each year. These people or families are watched hundreds of million times over and over. If your kids are into watching YouTube. Scrap that – your kids will be watching YouTubers and quite a few huge names live in Orlando.
If you’re lucky and out and about shopping or doing an activity you may bump into them, so tell the kids to keep their eyes out for them. Majority of them state on their channels that if you do see them out and about go up and say ‘hi’ to them.
They love their fans as much as their fans love them. If you do see them and the kids get a photo with them you will be parents of the year! and will make their holiday more than you know. Target is usually a good place to go.
Here are just a few of the ones we are aware of and we are sure that your kids will know them all
@The Tim Tracker (The mustache guy)
Medical insurance is an absolute must. You can even get it free with a lot of UK bank accounts, I do with Lloyds Bank. So be aware that there are a load of companies trying to sell you insurance in the UK and could cost a lot of money.
If you have a pre-existing condition then you may not have a choice but to pay for the expensive insurance. Don’t cheap out. Buy it and be done with it. American medical care costs a lot of money.
In England, we go to the Doctors, get a prescription, go to the pharmacy and pay £8.50 for our medication.
In America, you pay $75 (minimum) just to get the prescription and then you paya few hundred dollars or more ($300 for a single vial of insulin) at the pharmacy. Medicine and care is extortionate so as I have said above – don’t cheap out!
If something unfortunate happens whilst abroad, the general process for a GP and pharmacy visit is that you will pay for your medical care and medicine and then claim it back from your insurance company when you get back home. Keep your receipts. If something happens more serious where care and stay is needed in a hospital, then you will need to contact your insurance provider from America on behalf of the patient and arrange them to cover the hospital costs directly.
We run on 220v-240v in the UK and America runs on 110v-120v If you are wondering will my GHDs work or my iPhone charger work the simple answer is… check the plug.
On the plug of your device (or a label that is on the wire for GHDs) you will see it either states around 240v which means it will not work if you plug it in when you are in America or it will say around 120v-240v which means it will work.
If you’re confused here, the simplest way to find out is to take it with you and plug it in, if it turns on, it works, if it doesn’t then it doesn’t 🙂
Obvious statement? Well actually not as obvious as you may think. We are kind of lucky in the UK because you cannot do this the other way around, if an American device that only uses 110v comes to the UK and you plug it in, our electric will plough 220v into it and it will go bang. So For UK devices going to America, it is completely safe !
All USB products will work as they only use 5v.
All laptops will work as they run from 12v-24v