Get guest blogger Carrie Bradley's expert tips for planning a family visit to Orlando, including money-saving suggestions.
After a fun and relaxing — but fleeting — family trip to Orlando earlier this year, we couldn't wait to return to see more of one of the world's most visited family destinations. Our planning for a 2019 visit is well underway, and the timing fits well with Visit Orlando's latest research, showing that the average British family begins planning holidays more than six months in advance.
I definitely fall into the "planner" category, as I like to know exactly what a destination offers when it comes to valuable family holiday time. Plus, the anticipation and the planning is all part of the build-up of the excitement for the trip. If you're also ready to visit Orlando, here are some tips that can help you plan your holiday, too!
Tips for Planning a Trip to Orlando
Know when to avoid peak crowds.
With kids, unless they are very small, avoiding school holidays can be tricky, but try to avoid the peak summertime when both crowds and temperatures rise. (We visited in January and found the weather to be lovely.) Also, check U.S. national holidays and try to avoid visiting attractions on those days, too.
Ask each family member what they really want to do.
This will help you narrow down the attractions you want to see. We try and pick two each, with one being a must-do and the other a bonus. (Remember if you are visiting the parks: Some shows or parades may only happen on certain days.)
Factor in some down time.
This is especially important if you have young children. For us, having accommodations with a pool was paramount, as my girls thoroughly enjoy spending time splashing around. It also enabled us to have an afternoon snooze under the umbrella, which means we could all stay up a little later and explore Orlando in the evening. We loved Orlando's International Drive area, particularly around ICON Park for street entertainment, dining options and people-watching.
Download apps to places you intend to visit.
Pack extra batteries or power packs.
There is free WiFi in most places throughout Orlando, including the theme parks, which is great, but it will zap up your power.
Weigh the benefits of onsite and offsite theme park accommodations.
When planning a theme park visit, staying at a hotel on property has advantages such as early admission, extended hours, complimentary transportation, front-of-line access and special discounts. Similarly, onsite guests at Walt Disney World® Resort can use the FastPass+ program to select slots 60 days ahead of time, instead of 30 days if you're staying somewhere else.
Research character dining.
If you are visiting Walt Disney World, for instance, character dining slots open 180 days beforehand.
Consider renting a stroller.
Even if you have children who haven't used one in years, like my 6-year-old, they can come in handy, as the parks are huge and little ones will get tired. Alternately, you can buy a cheap one with an umbrella for as little as $20 from Walmart and other retailers.
Bonus Tips: Planning a Trip to Orlando on a Budget
The tips above will work for any family getaway, regardless of your spending limit. If you need to watch your budget, though, the following tips will serve you well.
VisitOrlando.com provides a wealth of information about savings and planning advice.
It's a great place to start your research, with information on places to stay, things to do, deals and even discounted tickets.
Don't forget to include tips and spending money in your budget.
Tipping is expected at around 15 to 20 percent, with 18 percent automatically added for parties of six or more at many eateries.
Look for special dining deals.
For starters, kids can often eat free. And around April, free Disney dining plan offers start to appear for U.K. travelers. Also consider dining outside the parks, at least for lunch, which is considerably cheaper than dinner.
Check regional airports and flights.
New routes are making it easier than ever to get to Orlando, meaning there are some great flight and package deals to be found.
Purchase theme park and attractions tickets before leaving home.
You can buy them directly from the theme park websites, or use the Visit Orlando app and website to get the best deals. Not only do you save money, but you also save time.
Last-minute purchases of essentials can add up quickly.
Pack plenty of sunscreen, plasters/bandages, water bottles and rain ponchos, and bring a comfortable backpack to take snacks and drinks to the parks.
The author of top-rated U.K. blog Flying With a Baby, Carrie Bradley is a passionate, experienced enthusiast of airline travel, and she also has more than 12 years' experience as flight attendant. Now a mother of two, she loves to jump on a plane to explore new places with her family.
An unabridged version of this blog originally appeared on FlyingWithABaby.com.
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