Hawkinge, United Kingdom
The first two weeks of this trip will be spent in Orlando with the girls, visiting the theme parks and water parks as well as shopping trips to the outlet malls for the ladies and golfing for Bob. Well, we might let him come shopping too sometimes 🙂
We have visited Orlando many times especially in the 1990s when the girls were small. Since 2012 when they have both been at university we have been twice, just with Daisy, and because we were no longer constricted by school holidays, we visited in September. This is a brilliant time to go because it is still very warm but the crowds are very very low if you go after Labour Day and before the Epcot Food and Wine Festival starts at the end of the month. You literally walk on to most of the rides without queuing at all.
This year though, we have to go in June in order to fit in with everyone’s timetable. June is a different kettle of fish. Not quite as bad as Easter, Xmas, July or early August, but not far off. Also Disney have introduced the new Fastpass+ system since we were last there. This is no doubt a brilliant system that allows us to pre-book 3 attractions a day at stated times to avoid queuing. All very desirable. However, it does mean that we have to pre-plan where we’re going every day in the first two weeks which feels a bit restrictive. So, oddly enough, quite a lot of planning has had to occur to make the most of the time without nailing every single minute down in advance. It has to still feel like a holiday and not a commando course. It is all too easy for a WDW trip to turn into this. I’ve often encountered grim faced families trailing behind Major Dad on a forced route march around the park desperate to fit in as much as possible in a single day. This is to be avoided at all costs!
We have bought special combined park tickets only available to UK visitors which gives us 2 weeks unlimited a entry to all the Disney parks including the water parks and all the Universal Studio parks including Harry Potter’s Wizarding Worlds!!! They also include unlimited golf at the Disney Oak Trail course for Bob (lovely 9 hole course) which we will make use of. We have had the Disney only version of these before and they are brilliant because it means you can come and go as you please without feeling you have to grimly stay in all day to make the most of your money. Very important in temperatures of 30C+. It’s a great bargain over what it would cost otherwise.
We bought our tickets from Orlando Attractions online and they provided a very efficient service by post and also threw in a card giving 20% discounts in lots of restaurants and some other freebie attractions. The only criticism I can make is that their credit card reference is not “Orlando Attractions” but “US Car Rental” and this caused me to have a long and confusing, nay panicked, conversation with the fraud team at Lloyds Bank before we sorted it out. My blood pressure was through the roof by the end of it 🙂
In order to plan the park days, I have used a fantastic website called http://www.touringplans.com which we have also used before. It has stored and analysed decades of hourly, daily crowd figures at the parks and for the individual rides and it can accurately predict those things for any given day. It also has a variety of touring plans that in combination with the predicted crowd levels and wait times can interactively generate a personal daily touring plan for you. There is even a phone app that lets you see real time data on line times. So we have used their systems to work out which park to go to on which day and which order to ride. Our overall approach is to go to the parks early and aim to be out of them by lunchtime. Then spend the afternoon in a water park, our resort, shopping or golfing. Then dinner somewhere and maybe a return to the park for an evening show or the fireworks on some nights. Our multi entry tickets allow us to come and go like that without a problem and we find we then avoid theme park burn out and utter exhaustion!!!!!! Having said all this. It is probably 8 or 9 years since we’ve attempted to visit the parks during such a peak season and we’re creakier than we were then… so it will be interesting to see how we fare. Once the girls go back, our trip becomes a lot more leisurely and we visit Delray Beach, Palm Beach, and Miami before heading back to Orlando for our last week (but not to the parks).
We have used our timeshares with Marriott for all of our accommodation and by swapping them as well as using them directly , our five weeks accommodation is all provided for. We have booked condominiums with full kitchen at the Marriott properties in order to have the option of self catering and a bit more space for the four of us to stretch out in. No doubt we will have some dinners out, but it will be great to also have some dinners in. Plus the condos come with laundry facilities so we can wash clothes which means we can take less and leave room in the cases for …… buying things!!!! Maybe this will be the visit to the States which doesn’t require us to frantically rush out to buy another suitcase on the last night.
So, the tickets for the parks and our flight tickets were our major expenses. We could have used Avios for the flights but to be honest you still pay so much tax and duty on the “free” tickets that it’s not worth it. We prefer to use Avios for short haul flights or upgrades these days sadly. We’ve hired a compact car, we’re taking our GPS and that’s about it for the pre-planning.
If anyone’s thinking of a WDW trip and wants some advice, would be glad to help. First bit of advice is don’t go in any of the main school holidays and remember that the US schools break up before us and go back a little earlier. Don’t despair if you have to go then like we did for so many years. It just means you have to be a bit more organised to avoid Disney Commando syndrome. Fingers crossed we will….